Navajo Prep senior Nicole Crisp took the stage Friday at
graduation practice and recited her "farewell."
rehearsing her lines, she extended her arms, two fingers visible
on each hand, and leaned into the microphone.
she bellowed in a pretend deep voice.
her sister Rainy Crisp, a senior sponsor, reclaimed the microphone.
everyone stand up! Now you hug each other or shake hands, because
this will be the last time you're all together."
Crisp directed the seniors to proceed down two aisles past the empty
rows of chairs lining the gym floor and through columns of black,
yellow and white balloons. T.I.'s "Live Your Life" blared
impossibly loud from speakers by the stage: "Safe to say I
paved the way / For you cats to get paid today / You'd still be
wasting days away / Had I never saved the day."
Crisp doesn't demand homage from her younger sister, but her presence
has always hovered around Nicole Crisp, preceding her everywhere.
The elder Crisp nearly averaged a quadruple-double her senior year
at Prep, winning three state titles before playing for Arizona State
University. Now she coaches the school's volleyball and girls basketball
sister Latisha also won a basketball state championship as a senior.
Nicole Crisp motions toward pictures of the Lady Eagle's back-to-back-to-back
state teams that hang from the wall of Eagle Gymnasium.
grew up in a very competitive family," Nicole Crisp said.
"Growing up and watching Rainy win three and playing with my
older sister when she was a freshman, I was like, I want that. I
want to be a state champion.' I would look at their pictures on
the wall and be like, OK, I'm going to be up there one day.'"
played timid as a varsity freshman under her sister, concerned with
the public's perception. She worried about appearing to get preferential
know there was pressure coming in after me being a coach and what
our team did back in 98 and the years after that," Rainy Crisp
said. "Everybody really had high expectations for her."
whispers in the hall weren't so quiet.
even said "bad stuff" about Crisp, fellow basketball standout
Monique IronShell said.
told her to not listen to what people were saying," IronShell
after back-to-back losses in the 2A volleyball championship and
falling to Texico in the 2008 basketball final, the Crisps led the
Eagles to their first hoops title since 1999.
23 points and 14 rebounds helped the Eagles to a 72-54 win over
when the buzzer went off I ran to my sister Rainy and I was like,
We finally got it! We finally got one!' We were so ecstatic and
so happy, you know?" Crisp said. "After we won our state
championship, Rainy was teasing me and she was like, You've finally
earned the right to be called a Crisp.'"
about it two months later, her sparkling brown eyes convey emotion
unapologetically. All those years watching her sisters win, wanting
to be just like them, coming so close only to falter, and finally
she's free from her self-imposed burden.
short all the past few years I've been here, it was just great,"
Crisp said. "Winning that state championship was enough for
me. After that everything was just a bonus."
Class 2A volleyball Player of the Year also finished third in the
2A triple jump and 200-meter dash and finished near the top of her
class academically, earning her The Daily Times' Female Athlete
of the Year award for 2008-09.
to basketball, Crisp excelled elsewhere at the behest of her parents.
Her father Earl Crisp used to coach track at Prep. With Rainy Crisp
coaching volleyball, she got roped into the two sports, which she
grew to tolerate and then enjoy.
wasn't allowed to bring home anything below a B' on her report card,
and sometimes that wasn't acceptable.
mom and dad, they didn't accept anything but the best from us, and
when they knew we could do more they would definitely push us,"
Rainy Crisp said, half serious in protesting that her sister got
it easier as the baby of the family.
Crisp cherishes the tough love. Asked what's important to her life
outside of sports, she referred back to her household.
pretty much wouldn't be where I am today without them," Crisp
said. "My parents disciplined me and my sisters looked out
for me and all my friends. I don't think I would've been anywhere
without the people around me."
independent one, Crisp plans to study forensic science with hopes
of analyzing DNA from crime scenes, breaking the chain of education
majors that includes her parents and two sisters.
will attend Phoenix-based Mesa Community College in the fall, where
she'll play basketball and consider transferring to a Division I
or II program in two years.
left-hander, Crisp thinks she's too devoted to her dominant side
and wants to become more ambidextrous.
and self-aware, Crisp has benefited from her older sisters' presence.
doesn't need somebody to hold her hand or tell her what to do. She
makes the right decisions the majority of the time," Rainy
Crisp said. "She doesn't need me or our parents to guide her.
At this point in time she's ready to be pushed out the nest and
go do whatever she wants to do.
think that puts a lot of relief on my parents because she is a responsible
person. Totally different from me. My parents were calling me every
Nicole Crisp's plaque sat on the concession stand ledge a few feet
away, symbolizing her unchained claim on history, the sister/coach
swelled with pride.
deserves it. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of other seniors out
there that deserve it as well, but it's a good honor for her,"
Rainy Crisp said.
beyond a spontaneous modified game of Wiffle ball in the practice
gym, Nicole Crisp posed with a basketball and interjected occasional
giggles. She tried to hold a serious expression and failed.
can't keep from smiling," Crisp said.