Jennifer Crago has a busy, full life, and she loves it. Along with teaching kindergarten at Columbus Elementary School in Columbus, Montana, she coaches cross country for the local middle and high schools, and she’s also the high school track team’s head coach.
Coach Crago and her husband, Mark, have three kids. Like a true teacher, she started by telling me which grades they’re in, and gradually got around to telling me their names. “I am a total teacher,” she laughed.
In addition to their kids, Coach Crago said they have two sheep dogs that live outdoors watching their cows and sheep, and two indoor dogs to keep the family on their toes.
I said, “All that wasn’t enough, you have animals, too?” She laughed again while assuring me enthusiastically, “We love our lives here!”
A deep passion for sport
Coach Crago is a passionate athlete. She was a D3 cross country and track athlete at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and she still enjoys running marathons and road races. Her coaching work reflects her love of sport.
“Columbus has around 2,000 people,” Crago said, “and the middle school and high school are in opposite wings of the same building.” The two schools use the same track, so she’s able to coach teams from both at the same time.
“One thing we really needed,” Coach told me, “was an outdoor tent for our athletes, so they aren’t standing under the direct sun. Thanks to a donation from Pattern Energy, we’re going to be able to get one,” she said.
From Columbus to Columbus
When I asked Coach Crago where she was from and how she ended up in Columbus, Montana, she said, “I’m going to tell you, but it’s really weird.”
Jennifer Crago grew up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. I stopped her immediately and said, “Wait, wait, wait. You grew up in Columbus,Ohio, went to college, then got married, and now you live in Columbus, Montana?” and we both laughed.
“My husband, Mark, grew up in a different suburb of Columbus (Ohio) than I did, so we had never met. We got introduced through a mutual friend during winter, while Mark was in the process of moving to Columbus, Montana, with his brother because they wanted to ranch sheep and cows there.”
Coach thoughtfully remarked to me how different her life would have been if she’d not met Mark at that moment.
“I grew up a city person,” she said, “and I assumed after college I’d be living and teaching in a city environment. Then I met Mark, and now we live here in paradise! It’s totally different from what I expected for myself, and I love it!”
Never a dull moment
The entire family gets involved with running the farm. “Our oldest loves to get out and take care of the animals and the farm, doing what needs doing. My eighth grader does cross country, track, and basketball, while my fourth grader plays basketball and is a successful entrepreneur!”
The fourth grader in question, Ashley, has a business deal with the Stillwater Market to sell the farm fresh eggs she collects from their chickens. “She’s been doing an amazing job, people love her eggs and she’s making money for herself,” Crago said with pride.
“As a family, we enjoy visiting other parts of Montana. We go hiking and enjoy what our state has to offer.”
As we ended our conversation she told me, “Living here has been an amazing experience. In addition to sports, the kids got involved in 4-H, which was new to me, and I have to say there is such a huge difference in the experiences our kids are having versus the kind I had growing up, and I am so happy we’re building our lives here.”