There is no doubt Cravon Gillespie is fast.
In his first season as a Duck, Gillespie won the 100 meters in the Pac-12 Championships. He is already ranked in three events on Oregon’s All-Time lists: fourth in the 100 meters (10.18 seconds), sixth in the 200 meters (20.64) and a part of the second and sixth fastest 4×100 relay teams.
But behind the junior redshirt and his impressive personal bests from sprinting for Mt. San Antonio College (including a wind-aided 20.20-second 200 meters) lies a person who cherishes the importance of an honest mentorship.
Finding a mentor — someone to trust and guide him through life’s tough battles — has always been a priority to Gillespie. From his grandmother to a teammate’s mom, Gillespie would not be the person, the sprinter or the Oregon success he is today without them.
Growing up with divorced parents, living in bad neighborhoods and trying to avoid troubled friends caused Gillespie to move “close to” 10 times before his sophomore year of high school.
“It was definitely tough not having mentors,” Gillespie said. “Obviously I had my family, but just the friends I was around. Just not making the smartest decisions on my part. … We been from apartment to apartment, hotels, my grandma’s, my auntie’s house.”
Through the constant changes, Gillespie found a strong mentor in his grandma. She would drive from Moreno Valley, California to the Gillespies’ home in Pasadena, California every weekend to pick up him and his siblings.
“She was like another mother to me,” Gillespie said.
When she passed away from a heart attack at age 45, Gillespie chose to honor her with a tattoo of her portrait on his chest, over his heart.
“Every time I finish a rep of my workout or before or after I cross the finish line, I always tap my chest and point to the sky just like a remembrance of her,” he said. “She is on this side, so she is close to my heart. I always think about her every day. I know she is watching over me.”
After high school, Gillespie attended Mt. SAC where he earned his Associate’s degree and sprinted for the Mounties’ track team. It was at a track practice during his sophomore year where he met Victoria “Tori” Sandoval.
The two instantly clicked, quickly becoming best friends and it wasn’t long before Tori brought him home to her mom, Judy.
“The way he treated Victoria with respect. He never took her for granted,” Judy said. “And when you see that, you respect that, and you take care of them because there is not a lot of young men like that.”
Gillespie lived in the Sandovals’ guest room for that track season, the summer and part of the following fall. He became part of the family, tagging along on road trips, celebrating the holidays, going to Tori’s little sister’s soccer games and joining family dinners.
“It was just like a brother that I never had,” Tori said. “It was fun. It was like our hanging out never ended.”
With the help of Judy, he improved his grades and his sprint times on the track to transfer out of Mt. SAC. Gillespie became the first in his family to go to a four-year university, earning a spot on the Oregon roster — his dream school and his dream track team.
Gillespie will compete in the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships in both the 100 and 200 meters, marking his first ever race on Hayward Field as a Duck.
“Cravon had the tools, he just didn’t know how to use them,” Judy said. “And now that he’s using them, he’s accomplishing all his dreams. And I’m so proud and he’s an inspiration.”
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni