A common theme runs through the life of McDonough High School senior Chris Schraf: speed. From the souped-up 1995 green Thunderbird he owns and maintains, to the pace he keeps on the school soccer and track teams, to his quick advancement in academics, Schraf enjoys life in the fast lane.

And, despite the obstacles he has encountered along the way, that is where he fits in best.

Schraf was the 1998 Maryland 2A champion in the 100-meter dash, and though track and field is his first love, his focus at the moment is soccer. Or perhaps more accurately, soccer is one of the things Schraf is focusing on during this whirlwind fall.

During the school day, Schraf spends half of the day taking classes at McDonough, where he carries a 3.74 grade-point average. He spends the other half of his day taking courses at Charles County Community College to get ahead. He completed a college physics course this past summer and currently is taking a course on career decision-making. Schraf said he plans to study mechanical engineering in college.

After school, Schraf turns his attention to weight training. He is rehabilitating from arthroscopic surgery performed in August on his right ankle--the surgery removed scar tissue and a bone fragment that had been present since he tore ligaments in his ankle in a November 1998 soccer tournament.

Unwilling to forgo his junior season of outdoor track, Schraf competed on the sore ankle despite the pain.

"It hurt real bad during the [outdoor track] season," Schraf said. "But I competed anyway because I had to. This is my future."

Schraf ran the 100 as fast as 10.69 seconds during the regular season. His showing at the state track meet--he won the 100 in 11.0 seconds and finished second in the 200--attracted the attention from area colleges that Schraf was hoping for.

He is already being recruited by James Madison, Lehigh, Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

After track season, Schraf still didn't rest. Instead, he played in a soccer tournament in Virginia Beach in June as a member of the Fort Washington Wildcats, the travel team he has played with for eight years. Then he had surgery--and a quick recovery.

"Coming off the surgery was real tough on Chris, because he wanted to get back right away to preseason training, and I said no," McDonough soccer coach Jeremy Campbell said. "Chris, like any competitor, doesn't like to hear the word no. But he had to not only think about soccer, but about college.

"I respect him for coming out for the team at all, because I had heard rumors he was going to concentrate on track, and I certainly could have understood that decision, too. But it's nice to have him out here. He knows what it takes to be successful as an individual, and now he's showing that to the team."

Schraf said he did toy with the idea of sticking solely with track, but he relished the challenge of returning to the soccer field sooner than others thought he might.

Because of his blazing speed--which Campbell admits he didn't appreciate until he watched Schraf take off in the SMAC 200-meter final last spring--Campbell moved him from midfield to defense this season.

"Chris knows he's back there for the team," Campbell said. "Because of his speed, he can prevent breakaways. He'll probably move up and become more of an attacker later in the season, when we're a little better offensively."

Whatever helps the team, Schraf said, is fine by him. But when track season rolls around, he finds the individuality of that sport more appealing. Schraf said he craves the attention and the challenge. With Westlake speedsters Recardo Evans (the defending SMAC champion in the 100 and the 200) and Gonzie Gray (the Maryland 3A champion in the 200 and runner-up in the 100) returning this season, he'll get plenty of both.

And with McDonough moving from Class 2A to 3A this year, the three sprinters likely will face each other during the regular season and in the SMAC, regional and state championship meets.

"It's definitely going to be an interesting year in outdoor track," Gray said. "Chris is a great competitor. I'm sure he doesn't like to lose, and neither do Recardo or myself."

Schraf agreed--quickly.

"You just wait and see," he said.

CAPTION: Schraf, shown listening to his coach, uses his speed on the soccer team's defensive line. He also is a state sprinting champion and attends courses at Charles County Community College.

CAPTION: Chris Schraf, who is being recruited by college track teams, is a valuable member of McDonough's soccer team.