It turns out the realest runner on the track as well as the cross country course was pretty unreal. Even if Rebecca Craddock didn’t want to believe it.
Time and again she won races. Yet time and again she gave praise to others.
That’s just the way the 2017 Gazette Female Athlete of the Year rolled. Let others stand in the sun. The Brunswick senior was happier in the shade.
“It’s probably just how I was raised,” Craddock said. “I’ve never been one to be bragging about me because there are those that are better than me or just as good.
“It’s kind of a turnoff. It’s showy. I don’t see a need to brag about anything. I feel like at any moment I could get injured or have a million people better than me. There’s no use in, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m the best.’ There’s always someone out there better than you.”
The 2015 Gazette MVP in cross country and track and field MVP this spring, Craddock has every reason to stand out.
Craddock finished second in the Division I 1,600-meter run with a career-low 4.44.60 and followed with a third-place finish in the 3,200 with another personal best in 10:31.56.
They were the exclamation points to a weekend that saw the Blue Devils finish sixth in the 4x800 relay.
Craddock finished with 10 invitational wins — not that anyone knew.
“She had such respect from her teammates because of that,” Brunswick track and field coach Melissa Wojtala said. “She never thought she was too good to run a relay (4x4 and 4x8). It made the whole team respect her.
“We’ve never had an athlete like her. She’s special. You don’t get to coach a girl like her very often. … She’s a true testament of hard work.”
Craddock also is a testament to making sure dynasties live on. Top athletes come and go, and some are forgotten within a year due to attitude.
Craddock went out of her way to make sure incoming freshmen and first-year sophomores and juniors understood the importance of team right away.
“She is the most humble superstar I’ve ever met,” cross country coach Kerry Hunter said. “She’s always got a smile on her face, but as soon as we started talking about racing or practice or getting her better, the smile went away and she was very intense.
“She took anything we could give her, and the other kids could see that. I told them, ‘You have the best example you could ever ask for right in front of you.’ There was never any argument over what needed to be done. That attitude was very refreshing.”
Her time on the course in the fall was a gigantic reason for Brunswick’s success, as Craddock ran every season at the state meet for the Blue Devils and gave it her all.
In 2014, she finished third. In 2015, she was eighth.
Brunswick finished no worse than ninth in the team standings and was third this season.
“It’s really nice to have someone who is humble about their accomplishments,” two-sport teammate and 2016 cross country MVP Felicia Pasadyn said. “She’s a lot more relatable as a role model. It definitely makes her come across as someone who is compassionate and kind. It makes it seem like it’s reachable for those who want to be at her level one day.
“Losing (my sister) Vanessa to graduation was tough because we are really close, but Rebecca made the transition smoother and was a big-sister figure. She made sure our 4x8 team was warming up on time and stretching. We kind of teamed up to make sure everything was in order. It was nice to have someone like that.”
It was more than just being a good teammate for Craddock, who enjoyed distance running in a spring sport where others don’t.
A vital part of the track team and the centerpiece around each meet, she embraced the long runs as much as she did in the fall.
It wasn’t just about the love of competition. It was about having the ability to tune out from the pressures of the world while searching for that runner’s high.
“The training aspect of it is stress-relieving,” Craddock said. “The process is long and hard, but at the end of the day, you’re like, ‘Wow, I got to clear my head. That was awesome.’ Racing, you’ve heard about the runner’s high, and that’s awesome. You just feel so good when you can accomplish a long-term goal because it is so hard.
“Practice is long. Meets are long. You have to be focused for a while. You have to be mentally tough to stay in the game because if you lose it, you’re done. I know from working hard to go to school to practice to work, I know I wouldn’t be able to do it without distance running in that aspect.”
The next step is college in the fall, but Craddock’s name will show up on more than a leaderboard at Brunswick for seasons to come.
“Her legacy here will last a long time,” Hunter said. “Kids that come in five, six, seven years from now will hear about her. I told her, ‘Those stories about how you prepared for races. How you were there every single day. How you ran races will carry a lot of weight.’ It’s not just now. She’s one I’ll be able to talk about for a long time.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.