Editor’s note: This profile on Kristal Grigsby ’06 is the sixth in a 13-part series by Valerie Turgeon ’13 on the alumni who will be inducted into the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 19. Read a new profile every day in Tommiesports.com.
Kristal Grigsby ’06 is the most accomplished female field-event athlete in St. Thomas history.
A rare three-time NCAA champion in the long jump, a nine-time All-America and a 13-time conference champion, Grigsby has shown that determination and perseverance can lead to success, especially when it doesn’t come early.
During her freshman year, Grigsby didn’t score a single high jump point in the conference indoor meet, but she came back to score 213 points in her final seven MIAC indoor and outdoor competitions.
“I was disappointed with my lack of achievement freshman year, especially coming out of high school doing moderately well,” she said. “It motivated me to do better, work harder and be more well-rounded by going to practices, running by myself and getting to the weight room. I worked to get where I wanted to be.”
Much of Grigsby’s success came from competing in the long jump, an event she had never done in high school. St. Thomas coach Joe Sweeney asked her if she wanted to try the long jump. She gave it a shot, and it worked.
Grigsby won the long jump in the 2004 and 2006 outdoor and 2005 indoor national meets, and she set a conference record with her 2004 NCAA-winning long jump of 19 feet, 10¾ inches. She still holds four conference meet records (indoor triple jump, indoor and outdoor long jump and outdoor high jump). She was among 18 athletes named in 2006 to the NCAA Silver Anniversary team for the best track and field performances of the first 25 years of women’s national meets.
The highlight achievement for Grigsby -– a long jump of 19 feet, 9½ inches -– was particularly memorable because it was held on an already-special day.
“We did the Tommie Twilight on May 3 during my senior year. I broke the O’Shaughnessy Stadium record (set 16 years earlier). It was an incredible moment, and I can remember the date because it was my birthday.”
Along with individual success, Grigsby also was a team player. She contributed to another 40 relay points and helped the Tommies win seven of a possible eight MIAC team titles in her era.
Track and field was a family affair for Grigsby. She combined with her twin sister, Carthage College’s Shea’na Grigsby, to win 11 NCAA Division III track and field championships. The twins ran against each other on the 4x100 relay at the 2004 Division III national meet. In the prelims, Carthage (48.14 seconds, with Shea’na on the leadoff leg) edged UST (48.16 seconds, with Kristal on the second leg). Both teams made finals, where the sisters ran head-to-head on the second leg, but St. Thomas team was disqualified and Carthage placed seventh.
“She’s faster, and I’ve always known that,” Grigsby said. They met again the next year at the long jump nationals, but She’na did not make it to the final round.
Grigsby earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2010, and today she is a day-treatment therapist for mental and behavioral health. She remains active by running, lifting and playing volleyball and tennis.
The St. Thomas honor surprised her.
“It’s quite an achievement for me considering I was so new to the long jump,” she said. “It was something I didn’t even know I had the ability to do. I think everyone hopes to be inducted and reach this kind of achievement. There have been a lot of great athletes at St. Thomas, so it’s humbling to be honored and to have my ability recognized.”
Jake Barkley 2003 Football
Nikki Conway 2006 Softball
Roman Cress 2003 Track & Field
Carrie Embree 2007 Softball, Basketball
Jane Gibbs-Becker 2004 Volleyball
Kristal Grigsby 2006 Track & Field
Andrew Hilliard 2003 Track & Field, Football
Diane Loughlin Urick 1989 Track & Field, Cross Country
Janet Nagle 2006 Softball
Steve Pignato 1997 Baseball
Isaac Rosefelt 2007 Basketball
Tessie Thompson 2003 Soccer
Michelle Wong 2005 Softball