A Bright Future: Texas Jumper Craddock Ranks No. 12 In World

By Kevin Posival
Updated: July 13, 2007

KILLEEN, Tx. — There’s something ironic that 16-year-old Omar Craddock, a Killeen High junior-to-be, spends his summers at the Ellison High School track. Craddock admits that he does get heckled by Ellison attendees while he’s preparing for his next summer track meet, but more important to Craddock is how he is known around the world. Craddock posted a leap of 49 feet, 9 inches at the Great Southwest Track and Field Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., on June 2. Last week, the International Association of Athletics Federation credited that jump as the 12th best jump in the world this year and second-best among 16-year-olds. Craddock said he wanted to be surprised, so he waited for the news to break in the Killeen Daily Herald. “It felt good,” Craddock said. “I never thought I’d be ranked in the world. I thought I could be ranked in the state or the country, but it was something real shocking that I would be ranked in the world.” Craddock didn’t have long to savor his global ranking; he’s participating in the United States of American Track and Field (USATF) Region XII Junior Olympic Championships in Odessa for a chance to advance to the USATF Junior Olympics in Walnut, CA, July 24-29. After his Thursday morning 11:30 a.m. jump at Odessa’s Ratliff Stadium for the USATF, Craddock motored to San Antonio’s Alamo Stadium for a 9:30 a.m. Friday jump in the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) Region IX Championships for a chance at the AAU Junior Olympics in Knoxville, Tenn. July 27-Aug. 4. Craddock first started track in the eighth grade and when he hooked up with Eric Gaither, then of the Killeen Blaze, he wanted only to crack the 40-foot mark. “He struck me as a focused, goal-oriented 14-year-old,” Jump Corps coach Eric Gaither said. “He seemed to know, with clarity, what it was that he wanted to achieve in terms of organized athletics.” Craddock spent the summer after his eighth-grade year with Gaither at the Killeen Blaze track club and then followed Gaither to the newly created Washington-Brooks Jump Corps of the Central Texas Hill Country team named after Gaither’s former coaches and track legends Jimmy Washington — who placed 6th in the triple jump at the 1979 U.S. Nationals with a jump of 55-0 — and Fred Brooks — a U.S. Olympics trials qualifier. “He wanted to break 40 feet,” Gaither said of Craddock’s initial goal. “His best jump coming out of Fairway Middle School was 39-11. In terms of jumping, especially in the triple jump, which is physically and psychologically gruelling, I would say that Omar is without a question the most precocious youth athlete I’ve had an opportunity to collaborate with in the pit.” Craddock said that receiving the IAAF recognition and a nagging hamstring injury has added stress to an already full weekend of qualifying meets. “His goal now is to conclude the summer with Junior Olympic titles in the triple jump at the USATF championships … and the AAU Junior Olymplic Games,” Gaither said. “By winning both championship titles, he would become the first Killeenite to secure gold medals from each of the majoring governing athletic bodies in the United States.” When both the USATF and AAU Junior Olympics are over, Craddock will continue as a regular 16-year-old beginning August, stressing about the upcoming school year and getting back into his the routine of juggling athletics and classes beginning in the fall with football season. Still, Craddock has managed well so far. He maintained a 3.2 GPA his sophomore year while competing for Jump Corps in both indoor and outdoor track meets. Craddock had to sit out of the Killeen High track season last spring because of his indoor track schedule, but he said he wants to give it another try in the 2007-08 year if for no other reason than to show his Ellison High hecklers why he’s on the track in the heat during his summer vacation. “It’s weird practicing here (at Ellison),” Craddock said. “They know I go to Killeen and compete for Killeen. Sometimes we get to talking about how they’re going to beat us, but I’m there — by myself — defending the school.”