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By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer
For Rainy Crisp, the head coach for the Navajo Prep Lady Eagles basketball team, athleticism and coaching is in her blood — her father was a coach, as well as her sisters.
She attended the Farmington, New Mexico, school herself, graduating in 1998, where she was a standout basketball and track and field athlete. Her basketball team won three state championships, and Crisp was honored as New Mexico Player of the Year not once, but two times.
Under her father, Coach Earl Crisp, she is a four-time state champion in the long jump and 100 meter dash. After high school, Rainy Crisp attended Arizona State University, where she played basketball for four years for the Lady Sun Devils.
After receiving her degree, Crisp returned to Navajo Prep as a teacher and coach, and has not only been the head basketball coach for the past 13 years, but also the head volleyball coach for nine years and is also the school’s athletic director.
Crisp has been in Ketchikan since Tuesday with her girls basketball team for the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic. On Friday before their game against the Kenai Central Kardinals — a game the Lady Eagles ultimately won 49-39 — she had quite a bit to say about her team.
“We have girls who are outspoken leaders, we also have girls who show their leadership by not saying much, but (show it) on the court,” Crisp said. “We have girls that are just there to support each other. It’s a great mix of girls, and it’s starting to come together a lot more.”
One of those girls includes Martinique “Monti” Larvingo. Crisp explained Larvingo is a very vocal leader — and an athlete through-and-through. She plays three sports, and “is a beast in all three.”
“She’s very competitive,” Crisp said. “She hates to lose and so that’s a big aspect that she brings to the team. She’s one of our top leaders.”
Larvingo said she doesn’t particularly like to lose — but she doesn’t only play for the sole purpose of winning. A basketball player since she was 5 years old, she does it for the love of the game — and the feeling it gives her.
“I really like playing just because it’s fun, it’s something that can get my mind off of things,” Larvingo said. “I like feeling that adrenaline rush and being able to use my speed up and down the court, and just play.”
The girls have not only played on the court in Ketchikan, but off the court as well. The Lady Eagles were taken out on the Jack Cotant, the educational boat owned by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, and were given a water tour of Ketchikan — during which Larvingo noticed several differences between Farmington and the First City.
“For starters, there’s not that much water (in Farmington),” Larvingo laughed. “There’s not that (many) mountains, not as (many) trees and it’s very dry.”
It may be dry, and there may only be a handful of things Larvingo recommends visitors do in Farmington — but there is at least one staple from the New Mexico town, and the state in general: Blake’s Lotaburger.
Blake’s Lotaburger is primarily in New Mexico, with more than 60 restaurant locations, but also has a handful of burger joints in Texas and Arizona. It’s such a staple of New Mexico that it was even featured in AMC’s TV show “Breaking Bad,” which took place in the state.
What makes it different from any old burger? Larvingo said it’s the green chile burger — which, after being served for 65 years in the state, National Geographic named “The World’s Best Green Chile Cheeseburger.”
Chile seems to hold a special place in the hearts of New Mexico residents. Another Navajo Prep Lady Eagle, Shundiina “Diina” Fisaga, said Farmington is known for its “chile and sunsets,” saying its sunsets “are really nice.”
Along with Larvingo, Fisaga enjoyed the boat ride on the Jack Cotant, which she was able to drive. She also seemed to appreciate their tour of Saxman Totem Park.
“They actually gave us eagle feathers,” Fisaga said, adding they also watched a totem pole carving, and were given the history behind it.
For Crisp, visiting Saxman Totem Park, learning about the Tlingit tribe and being given an eagle feather, was a very special experience for her. She said the eagle feather is a “very special bird” to the Navajo people. Crisp is actually from Shiprock, New Mexico, which is on the Navajo reservation about 30 minutes away from Farmington.
“I think the highlight of my trip has really been visiting the Tlingit Tribe,” Crisp said. “Talking to them, we found so (many) similarities with their tribe and our tribe. We come from the Navajo tribe.”
Crisp said being given an eagle feather was “such a blessing.”
“We were speechless,” she added.
The team also saw three eagles on their boat ride around Ketchikan, which Larvingo added was quite picturesque. She said when she thought of Alaska, she pictured something like a photo in National Geographic — and the scenery from the Tongass Narrows didn’t disappoint her.
Even though the Navajo Prep Lady Eagles weren’t on the court for these experiences, Crisp still expected them to be on their best behavior. She said being a part of the basketball team has a big effect on their everyday lives.
“I expect a lot,” Crisp said. “I’m a very disciplined coach; I expect a lot from them on the court, as well as off the court. Especially in the classroom.”
Crisp often reminds the girls that they are role models for young athletes and students, and for them to always hold in the back of their minds that someone out there looks up to them — including her own children. She has three children of her own, and her boyfriend has two — so there are at least five young ones that hold the Navajo Prep Lady Eagles in high regard.
“My kids really look up to my athletes,” Crisp said. “They’re around them all the time, and so I always remind my athletes, there’s many people out there that look up to you that you don’t even know.”