Becky Carr says she had a feeling early on that her daughter, Shalynn, would develop into an outstanding runner.
The first hint, she says, came before Shalynn was old enough to walk.
"We knew she was going to be a good one because she was a fast crawler," the mother joked.
Shalynn has picked up her pace considerably since then.
At age 12, when most runners are in the early stages of development, Carr is consistently producing fast times.
Since she started competing three years ago for her team, the International Sports Exchange, Carr has established seven national age-group records and has improved rapidly on her marks.
She has a top time this year of 2:15.6 in the 800-meter run, which would have been fast enough to win this season's CIF Southern Section 4-A Division meet. Not to mention her blistering bests of 58.6 seconds in the 400 meters and 15-6 in the long jump.
A resident of La Verne, Carr hopes to improve upon those times in the Junior Nationals of The Athletics Congress (TAC) from Monday through July 2 at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
"She ran the fastest 800s in history as a 10-year-old, 11-year-old and 12-year-old," says her father, Lonny, who also is her coach. "She's never lost an 800 in three years of competing, and she's never even had anyone push her the last 200 meters."
Carr said onlookers are usually startled with his response when they ask him his daughter's age.
"They always say, 'What is she--a freshman or sophomore in high school?' She probably looks like she's older because of the way she runs. But I say she's in the sixth grade and they look at her and say, 'No way.' They just can't believe it."
But seeing is believing.
Bob Hickey, who is Shalynn's coach with the International Sports Exchange track club and a board member of the Southern California Assn. of the Athletics Congress, says there is nothing inaccurate with her marks.
"They're legitimate times, that's for sure," Hickey said. "Besides being a coach, I'm also a certified (track) official and if they weren't, I wouldn't consider them.
"Her times are progressive. She is improving all the time. There is nothing fluky about it. She just has a tremendous amount of talent."
Hickey is certainly in a position to know about young track talent. After all, he coached distance star Mary Decker Slaney at the youth level in 1973 and 1974.
So Hickey is not simply providing idle chatter when he calls Carr a definite Olympic prospect in the not-too-distant future.
"I'm not talking about the 1988 games, but she has the ability to definitely be a factor in 1992," he says. "It's not something that's out of reach. She has that kind of ability."
He added that Carr has been making steady improvement since she started competing with the track club.
"She knocks about three seconds off her time every year, and that's a lot," Hickey said. "If she can keep doing that, she'll have some great times by then (1992). We'll have to see how she develops once she starts going through the maturation process. Her father is a big guy and her mother, although she's not as big, has good-sized bones."
Hickey said a big factor in Carr's early development has been her parents.
Her father, 34, was an NCAA All-American in track and field at Cal Poly Pomona in the mid-1970s after transferring from Missouri. As a collegiate performer, he threw more than 60 feet in the shot put and scored more than 7,600 points in the decathlon.
"I trained for the Olympics in the decathlon and I qualified for the trials, but that was the 1980 Olympics and my plans were washed out by the boycott," he said.
His wife, 32, is not a bad athlete, either. She was an outstanding runner in her age group, establishing a national record of 1:04.1 in the 440-yard dash in the mid-'60s.
They said they still compete in meets from time to time.
With their strong track background, Hickey said Shalynn's parents have done a good job handling her coaching responsibility.
"My workouts are all in my head," Lonny said. "They are all based on her needs. We do not overwork her. We never give her a hard work after a meet. My workouts are always progressive and we work down later in the week."
"Lonny and I were child athletes so we understand what goes on with a child's body and how to work with them," Becky added. "We're careful not to overdo it."
Lonny said Shalynn usually runs three or four days a week and works out on a rowing machine two days a week. "The workouts are quality," he said. "There are some coaches that believe in quantity, but I don't. Our goal is to see that she improves every year."
But, aside from their track backgrounds and coaching techniques, Hickey said it has been Shalynn's strong family bonds that have contributed to her rapid success.
"The difference between Shalynn Carr and Mary Decker is Mary came from a broken family and this (track) was her outlet," Hickey said. "The Carrs are not a broken family in the least and they're very supportive of her all the way. They're trying to take her in stride."