Full of surprises

Most non-runners can’t imagine that running can be fun. But for junior Brian Cronrath, it’s the feeling that comes from pushing your body beyond what you ever thought possible that keeps him coming back, and keeps him consistently surprising himself and others.

Last Saturday, Cronrath pulled off the latest surprise of his running career at the University of Washington, running a national provisional qualifying time and a personal record in an unexpected event.

Originally from Battleground, Cronrath began his running career as the result of a challenge posed by a fourth-grade classmate.

When asked by a teacher if he was registered for an upcoming track meet, he immediately said he was, even though he wasn’t.

"I lied to the teacher and was kind of forced into it," Cronrath said.

Once he got the registration squared away with his parents, he made the most of his first meet, winning the local and district titles.

Cronrath played soccer, basketball, and T-ball growing up, but track began to take center stage in high school and became his main focus.

"I knew I was good at running before high school, but in high school it actually became fun," he said.

Under the influence of his parents, also runners and coaches at Battleground High School, Cronrath was able to come through with a breakout performance at the Meet of Champions, a meet where top Oregon and Washington high-school runners go head-to-head.

In the lead coming down the final stretch of the 3,000-meter race he was passed at the finish and placed second. Though it was disappointing to not win, his time bettered his personal record by over 10 seconds.

"It was a surprise for me to get into the race at all, and to get second was great," he said.

The story of Cronrath’s career is not short of these kinds of surprise performances, which he proved at Saturday’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference "last-chance" meet.

Coming off a self-described disappointing indoor season, he had nothing to lose in the 800 meters, a distance which he had never seriously raced before.

To the surprise of many, Cronrath posted 1:53.85, a national provisional qualifying time, finishing just behind teammate Eddie Strickler, who secured a spot at nationals.

"I was shocked to get a 1:53 and to be right up next to Eddie at the finish. Everyone was really surprised," he said.

Cronrath knew he wanted to run in college; it was just a matter of where. He was recruited by the likes of Washington State, St. Martin’s, George Fox, and Mt. Hood, but none of them held his interest for long.

"I was looking for a Christian school to go to with computer science, and I liked the coaches," Cronrath said.

About computer science, he said, "I was a huge nerd in middle school, and I’m still a nerd, just not full blown."

Although many of Cronrath’s surprises have been good, some have not. Particularly, Cronrath has had to fight constant injuries throughout his college career.

In fact, he entered SPU still lingering from an I.T. band injury to his leg and later had to fight off a nasty MRSA infection that was only correctly diagnosed by the school nurse. He even has the scar to prove it.

For support during the tough times, he turned to teammate Carlo Lozano who has also suffered his fair share of injuries. "[Lozano’s] dealt with injury and helped me get through the rough times," Cronrath said.

But for someone who has faced "the wall" head-on, Cronrath took the setbacks in stride.

Though Cronrath’s chances for a berth to the indoor national meet are slim, his goals for the spring include setting the school record in the 5,000 meters and to take his time in the 800 meters down to 1:50 or 1:51.

His other events include the 1,500 meters, the steeplechase, and 4×400 meter relay.

Cronrath plans to return next year to the cross-country and track teams before graduating next June and perhaps turning semi-pro.

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Title: Full of surprises | Author: Chris Schumacher | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2007-02-28 | Internal ID: 5471