May 24, 2011
By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
WINNIPEG, Manitoba—Colorado State junior Dana Cranston’s summer began a little differently than expected.
Instead of working, taking summer classes or hanging out with friends like many students her age, she will be training for a spot on the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team, the highest national team in her native country.
The announcement was made on Friday, but the process began weeks and even years prior to last week.
“I’ve been competing for national teams growing up, and last summer I played for Canada’s B team,” Cranston said. “I wasn’t expecting this at all.”
A 6-3 opposite hitter from Fort St. John, British Columbia, Cranston spent the entirety of last week at the 2011 Senior Women’s Selection Camp, composed of roughly 50 hopefuls. Being invited to the selection camp was an honor in itself, however.
“Not anyone can try out for a spot,” she said. “One has to be noticed by the selection committee and invited to participate in the camp.”
That invitation came in April when Team Canada’s head coach, Arnd Ludwig, traveled to Fort Collins to watch Cranston compete in CSU’s exhibition match against Tianjin Bridgestone, one of China’s national teams.
“I talked to the coach afterward, and he told me that they wanted me to come try out for Team Canada,” Cranston said. “I decided that if it worked out in my favor it would make for a pretty sweet summer.”
The tryout was a success, with Cranston earning one of 24 spots to train with Team Canada. The training, which began Monday in Winnipeg, will help the coaching staff slim down the roster to 12-14 members that will travel to international competitions, leading up to a possible berth in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Cranston said, “especially since I wouldn’t be able to compete in the fall once CSU started.”
Because the start of CSU’s season conflicts with some international dates for Canada’s team, the longest Cranston will remain with Team Canada is through the Pan Am Cup, which takes place June 29-July 10 in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Prior to that, though, Cranston hopes to extend her stay as long as possible, earning a roster spot when Canada hosts Team Argentina in late June and when it travels to the Pan Am Cup days later.
“The training is really intense, but really cool to be at a level that I’ve been working at for so long,” said Cranston, one of three players on the training squad who plays for a U.S. university. “It’s been a dream since I was little, and now I’m here. I’m just trying to absorb it all. The level of excellence expected, not just by the coaches but also by the other players, really stands out.
“There’s so much knowledge in the gym; it’s incredible. Every practice, I’m just trying to get a little better, a little stronger, a little faster. I’m just looking to play my best and soak it all in.”
Helping her with the transition is 2006 CSU graduate Tonya Mokelki, who will be starting her fifth year with Team Canada.
“I got her advice to come to CSU prior to committing,” Cranston said, “so she’s been a great mentor to me through the whole process.”
Even after beginning the training, wrapping her head around the honor is still difficult for Cranston.
“It’s surreal,” she said. “It really hasn’t sunk in what a huge honor this is. To be at this level and still so young, I’m very thankful. It’s been a dream of mine since I was little to compete in the Olympics, and hopefully an Olympic team is in the future for me.”
CSU Head Coach Tom Hilbert is excited for Cranston.
“Being part of Team Canada and competing for her country is really important to her,” Hilbert said. “Training with great players and playing summer competition will benefit her when she returns to the Rams."
Even though she knows she still has work to do to get where she wants to be, she understands that this is a major opportunity to become a better volleyball player, both in Canada and for CSU.
When asked what she can take away from the experience and bring back to her team at CSU, Cranston’s response was simple.
“Everything. I’m just a sponge right now, soaking it all in and trying to transfer everything back to CSU. I’m so excited. Everything is so vital and can be applied back to Fort Collins. Even things like how the girls interact. It’s cool to see and be a part of something at such a high level.”