Erin Shawk got quite the shock after a letter arrived to her home on Cherington Drive last week.
She recalled how her son Thomas Shawk, 17, took the letter before she could open it into his room, where his excitement could be heard.
Little did she know that her son, with the help of Galion High School cross country coach Dave Kirk, had applied on her behalf to be inducted into the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame, the same one Colonel Crawford head track coach Jody Grove and Galion head track cross country coach George Guins were inducted in a few years ago.
“It meant a lot,” Shawk said. “It’s a little humbling.”
Shawk participated in track for all four years at Colonel Crawford High School from 1987 to 1992. Back when she was know Erin Ebner, the Colonel Crawford track star lead the Lady Eagles to victory of the Division III state meet in her senior year. She placed first in the 100 meter dash in 12:47 and helped her 4 x 100 relay team win first place in 50:14.
“Erin added events along the way to strengthen our scoring chances,” Grove said. “The state meet is nerve racking enough with one or two events but to compete in four events successfully is unbelievable.”
Additionally, Shawk broke the state record after winning the 100 meters 33” hurdles in 14:39 – one of her greatest accomplishments in her track career.
“It was all those years of hard work,” Shawk said. “It was fun and exciting.”
But the perfectionist in her was disappointed when she ran second for 300 meters 30 inch hurdles.
“I know I defeated myself mentally,” Shawk said.
The psychology played an important role to her performance on the course, she said. Before a game, Shawk would meditate by herself. The other girls competing knew to leave her alone.
While her mental skills were a huge asset, she did have her physical challenges. Throughout her high school career, Shawk experienced pain because of genetically high kneecaps. She underwent surgery in the fall of her senior year to fix the issue but was worried that she wouldn’t be able to compete at the same level.
But track coach Rick Keller – or “Mr. Keller” as she still calls to him – worked closely with her including after her surgery for two weeks.
“I came out stronger and better than that,” she said.
To her, Keller was like the “psychologist” she needed to maintain that mental focus.
“The bottom line,” Keller said. “She had to put in a lot of time to work.”
Shawk would just practice over and over on her sport, he said.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Keller said, referring to her induction in the Hall of Fame. “I have nothing but good to say about Erin.”
“She was always a humble athlete and very genuine as person,” Grove said. “What Erin and those other young ladies did will also be one of the special highlights of my coaching career.”
After graduating from Colonel Crawford, Shawk ran third in the 100 hurdles in the junior Olympics. But Shawk’s track career came to an end after her freshman year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The coaches were demeaning and she was experiencing pain in her legs.
“It wasn’t enjoyable anymore,” she said.
It was a difficult decision for Shawk, who had aspirations to compete in the Olympics.
“That was one of the hardest things about quitting,” she said. “Track is what I know.”
But she applied her mental skills to the next chapter of her life. She graduated earlier in 1995 and married her high school sweetheart Jason Shawk. They now have two boys, Thomas and Simon, 12, both of whom are participating in cross country and track.
“I don’t know if I would have had Thomas if I kept running,” she said. “I put that drive into my family.”
But family was an important asset during her track career. Shawk found support from her Catholic faith, her mother Debbie and late father Ted Ebner.
She attributed her success to three entities – her parents, coaches and herself as the athlete – much like the Holy Trinity, said Shawk, a life-long member of St. Joseph Catholic Church on North Liberty Street.
Shawk now works part-time at the church, where she also recently started singing in the choir. She uses the skills in mental preparation that she used in track to stay on tune.
Shawk’s formal induction into the Hall of Fame will take place in Columbus on Jan. 29, 2016.
“I have a very blessed life,” she said.