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Crader still running strong: right into Junior Nationals

Duane Crader was getting ready to go running. It was a nightly ritual, designed to keep the Marine in shape. This night, however, his 10-year-old daughter wanted to go along for the 4-mile jaunt.

Crader finally consented, although he wondered if she could handle the grind. But 4{ miles later, father and daughter finished their run side by side, sweaty and tired.

The running career of Shar Crader had begun.

"Here was this little 10-year-old wanting to go for a 4-mile run," Crader said. "The first time and she's right there at the end. We knew she was going to be something special."

And she has been. Last week the former Chamberlain star was named most valuable performer at Florida International University, and on June 24 she leaves for Washington to compete in the 800- and 1,500-meter runs in the Junior Nationals.

She qualified for the 800 by setting an FIU record of 2:13.96, and ran a 4:44.96 to qualify in the 1,500.

"I'm on cloud nine just being able to go to nationals in two events," Crader said. "I didn't expect to even make it in the first place."

Last season Crader was Hillsborough County's top miler and half-miler, as she was the two previous seasons. As she has at FIU, she wasted little time making her mark in high school.

"Shar just came out as a sophomore and just started picking people off," said Ladd Baldwin, Chamberlain's track coach. "Shar was just mentally further ahead than anybody. It wasn't just running, it was strategy. Very few kids at that age have that thought process."

That process was usually this: "I'll stay behind the leader until the last lap, and then I'll blow by them."

It was that simple, and equally successful. For Crader, it's not just the running form and strategy, it's the attitude.

"Shar didn't think anybody could beat her, and they didn't, at least her senior year," Baldwin said. "Even when a young runner came out that was supposed to be real good, Shar would just say I don't care who it is. They'd line up and they'd look at Shar and Shar would look at them and that was it."

Crader, also an all-county cross county performer, went to the state meet in track each year at Chamberlain. Her best finishes came last year, when she was sixth in the 800 and eighth in the mile run.

"One of my goals was to get a medal at state," she said. "Even though I got the last one (they are given to the top six state finishers) that was the happiest moment for me.".

Crader, who was born in Misawa, Japan, capped her high school career by winning the Bill Shields Award as the county's best track athlete.

"Shar's real mental in her running," Baldwin said. "She's always thinking about how to run. She knows when to go out, when to kick, when to draft. Very rarely did she ever make any tactical mistakes."

At FIU, she again appeared to be ahead of other members in her class, although there was the time she ran an entire race in Virginia without her number pinned to her uniform because nervousness caused her to forget. "I thought I'd get disqualified. That was my big freshman move," she said.

Crader ran cross country "to keep myself in shape for track.".

"I'm more of a track runner," she said. "I run cross country as a way to keep my rhythym for running. If I would take a season off, it would really throw me off."

In her first year at FIU, Crader shaved nearly 5 seconds off her personal best in the 800 at the University of Florida Twilight Meet. But the highlight of the year may have come a little over a month ago.

Running in a meet at the University of South Florida, she won the 1,500 in only her second race at that distance all season.

"It was home. It was exciting being home," Crader said. "All season I had been training for the 800. It was just 800, 800, 800. But I said I wanted to do the 1,500 and the coach said okay."

The time qualified her for the Junior Nationals, where the top two finishers in each event move on to the Pan American Games.

Crader has no burning desire to compete in the NCAA meet, Olympics, or even the Pan Am Games. She said she doesn't need the pressure and that as long as her times continue to decrease, those will follow.

"I set a lot of little goals for myself, and they all hopefully lead up to one big goal,"she said.

And that one big goal?

"I just want to have fun, get my education, and be the best runner I can be."

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