Greenon High School junior Emma Cramblett will graduate this spring to begin her collegiate soccer career a year early.
Cramblett recently signed a national letter of intent to play next season at Northern Illinois University, a member of the Mid-American Conference located in DeKalb, Ill.
After meeting the coach at a camp last summer, Cramblett went on an unofficial visit and fell in love with the campus and the program. Cramblett chose the Huskies over Ohio State University, Butler University and Wright State University, she said.
“It was a really good fit,” Cramblett said.
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Cramblett finished her high school coursework after her sophomore year and has been taking college courses ever since, allowing her to graduate a year early.
Instead of playing soccer in the Ohio Heritage Conference, she’ll face the likes of Miami and Bowling Green.
“I feel like its worth it, starting my journey not just as an athlete, but as a college student,” Cramblett said.
It’s typical for some high school seniors who play fall sports to graduate a semester early and enroll in second semester classes to get a jumpstart on their careers.
However, leaving school a year early to play college athletics is rare.
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“It’s something that’s not the norm, but I say that with a lot of excitement,” said Greenon head coach Jamie Wiggins. “I’ve known her family for a long time. She comes from really good people. This is what Emma has always known she’s wanted to do and she’s worked very hard to put herself in this kind of position. I’m incredibly excited and in support of her decision because ultimately, I want my girls to succeed as players and succeed in their lives.”
Some athletes who leave college early often plan to redshirt — meaning they sit out of competition for a year, then gain another year of eligibility — but not Cramblett, who turns 17 in May.
“I’ll be playing as a freshman, I’ll just be the youngest player out there,” she said.
That’s nothing new for Cramblett, a member of Ohio Galaxies FC. She routinely played in older age groups during her club career, she said.
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“I’ve never been on a team my own age,” she said. “I’ve always played with older girls. I’m not scared. I’m really prepared. I feel like I’m going to be able to go out there and compete with them.”
Cramblett moved from defender to midfielder in her junior season at Greenon. She led the Knights with 18 goals and 10 assists. She expects to primarily play defense in college.
Cramblett is especially dangerous on set pieces, Wiggins said.
“I needed her to be a player who was going to make a difference on the field,” Wiggins said. “When she’s on the field, a lot of good things happen. She’s our most dynamic player in the air. She’s strong and physical. I would push to say she’s the most dynamic player in the air in the entire Dayton area.”
It will be tough leaving her Greenon teammates, Cramblett said. The Knights return several key players from a squad that went 14-3-1 last season.
“I’ll always be rooting for them,” Cramblett said. “It’s going to be sad leaving them and not playing my senior year, but I know they can do it. They’ll always be my girls.”