When Kristin (Gleason) Griffin entered the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 1998, she began her collegiate career as a biology major. After much debate and thought, the Masconomet Regional graduate made the switch to photography, her real passion.
A cross country and track star in high school for the Chieftains, Griffin was named The Salem News Student-Athlete of the Year in the spring of her senior year. It was an unexpected, but most certainly deserved honor as Griffin excelled in her studies as well as athletics.
More than a decade later, the now married Griffin — who turned her passion into her full-time vocation — recalled the Student-Athlete Award (celebrating its 50th year this week) fondly.
"I was sitting at the (awards dinner) banquet when they announced my name," explained Griffin, who is now 32. "After talking to a few of the fellow candidates that day during the interviews, I was so impressed with everyone — I thought there was no chance I would get it.
"I was just so honored to be nominated in the first place. It was such great group of (nominees) that I honestly wasn't expecting it."
Therein lies the nature of the Student-Athlete Award, which will be handed out this Thursday evening during a dinner ceremony at CoCo Key in Danvers. With so many outstanding student-athletes from each of the 14 North Shore area schools that vye for the award each spring, there's virtually no way to tell what separates the best in any given year.
A native of Boxford, Griffin now lives in Taunton with her husband and 4-year-old son. After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in studio art/photography while in South Bend, Ind., she went on to earn a Masters in imaging arts/photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Now running her own photography business, Griffin first discovered her love for photos while taking classes her senior year at Masconomet.
"I remember being in the darkroom in high school," Griffin recalled. "I found it was a great way to be able to express yourself through photos."
Griffin, who specialized in sprints during her high school years, chose not to continue her cross country and track career at Notre Dame. She did dabble a little bit in intramural track, but focussed mainly on her photography major.
"I haven't found much time for running now, either," said Griffin of her busy work schedule. "Business has picked up and there's a lot of other things to get done."
She did some teaching at the collegiate and high school levels over the past few years. With her expanding photography business, though, Griffin gave up teaching at the end of last summer.
"I enjoyed working with the students. They'd inspire me on a daily basis," added Griffin. "I'd see the photos they'd take and thought, 'Those were the photos I wanted to be taking myself.' But it's wonderful being my own boss."