AKRON, Ohio – Dani Vance Crookston, University of Akron softball player from 1981-84, has been honored as the No. 10 UA Female Athlete of all time, Akron's Title IX committee announced Monday.
The most decorated pitcher in Zips softball history, Vance Crookston is just one of two players to have her jersey retired by the program. The familiar No. 8 logged 3,991/3 innings on the mound and compiled a 45-13 career record, including four no-hitters.
"I am incredibly honored to be named one of Akron's Top 10 athletes, but I am hesitant to consider myself in that category because softball is a team sport," Vance Crookston said. "I was only one part of a great softball team. My teammates made great plays and came through with hits. There were a lot of talented softball players right in Akron's own backyard, and that still holds true today."
Vance Crookston, who was recruited locally from Manchester High School along with her two sisters Cheryl and Renee, was a key player on Akron's roster during the early years of its transition from slow-pitch to fast-pitch. Vance Crookston's first season for the Zips was in 1981, and Akron had just started to compete in fast-pitch the year before in 1980.
A three-time Caroline J. Pardee Award Winner (UA Female Athlete of the Year), Vance Crookston was also recognized as an All-American and Academic All-American following one of Akron softball's most successful seasons in 1984. Under head coach Joey Arrietta, Vance Crookston led the team to the NCAA Division II Final Four in 1984 where the Zips were runners-up in the national championship game.
Vance Crookston was inducted into the Varsity "A" Hall of Fame in 1993, and holds school records that still stand almost 30 years after she left the diamond. She recorded the most single-game strikeouts with 17 against Muskingum on April 6, 1983, and carries the lowest ERA in program history at 0.617. Her countless accolades earned her the team's Most Valuable Player status in three out of her four years, as well as Pitcher of the Year for two of those seasons.
Receiving this most recent honor in the midst of the University's celebration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, Vance Crookston is quick to attribute her academic and athletic career to the opportunities afforded to her by the legislation passed in 1972.
"Title IX impacted my life a great deal," she said. "I never really planned on going to college, because my parents couldn't afford to send three girls to school. An athletic scholarship gave me an opportunity to play softball and to get an education with my sisters that I would not have had otherwise."
Vance Crookston continued to recall how playing conditions continually improved for her and her teammates throughout her career, which led to the Zips' success on the softball field.
"My first year, we raked our own field and had to set it up for every game and every practice. We wanted to play Kent State at home during that time, but the forecast called for rain. A couple of girls got a supply of trash bags from the janitor's closet in an effort to create a makeshift tarp, but it actually made the field worse so we couldn't play. By 1984, we were hosting the NCAA regional tournament at Akron, and people were traveling from all over the country to play on our field."
Vance Crookston built her remarkable career just as Akron was working to build its program into what it has become today. Her accomplishments will always be remembered as a turning point for Zips softball, and she is confident that the future is even brighter for young girls aspiring to achieve their goals through athletics.
"My four daughters play softball as well, and my advice to them and all young girls in sports would be to watch, listen and be ready to learn all the time," Vance Crookston said. "Most of all, appreciate your teammates, be thankful for your ability and work hard to reach your full potential."