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The Superstar 

The high school career of Desert Christian's Kristen Cray has been an almost-unparalleled success

If you don't find yourself in awe of Kristen Cray's accomplishments by the time you're done reading this, you don't have a soul.

Many a skeptic has crossed the Desert Christian High School senior's path over the years, each initially unconvinced that one person could possibly accomplish so much during four of the most angst- and hormone-filled years of one's life.

Yet those who've witnessed her exploits on the basketball and tennis courts, or on the soccer field, are quickly converted. So, too, are those who've attended any of her lead-role performances in school-theater productions. The wow factor goes up exponentially when you learn she's still deathly afraid of singing before an audience.

"I never felt like I was something that special," said Cray, 18, via cell phone last week. (From the background noise, it sounded like she was triple-tasking.) "I know that I do a lot, but my friends do a lot, and my family does even more than me."

There's plenty of truth to Cray's statement. Her school, Desert Christian, is well-known locally for producing well-rounded young men and women, including her two older brothers and an older sister. Another sister, Jenna, is a sophomore at the eastside faith-based institution.

Cray is one of five seniors in the 53-person graduating class to finish with a 4.0 grade-point average. And her athletic and extracurricular exploits are just par for the course at a school that during the 2011-2012 school year had almost all team sports reach at least the second round of their respective state tournaments.

But the school's annual awards ceremony earlier this month might as well have been called The Kristen Cray Show, said longtime Desert Christian athletic director Cindy Riley.

"It was awesome; she was very deserving," Riley said.

The same could be said for the Arizona Interscholastic Association's annual awards banquet, held earlier this month in Glendale. Cray was the Class 1A-3A Girls' Scholar-Activity scholarship winner and was named the Girls' Student of the Year for all of Arizona.

Cray, a four-year starter for Desert Christian's basketball, soccer and tennis teams, could have also won the 1A-3A Girls' Scholar-Athlete scholarship, but the selection committee chose to spread the wealth.

That wasn't an easy decision, said Riley, who serves on the committee but recused herself each time Cray's name came up for consideration.

"I felt so great for her, but I felt in an awkward position because I was on that committee," Riley said. "These weren't just school people; they were people (from) all over the community doing all kinds of things, from lobbyists to attorneys, and they were all just blown away, I think, by her commitment."

That commitment, Cray says, comes from a drive that is fueled in equal parts by the influence of family and friends, and her devout faith in God.

"That is, without a doubt, a huge part of my life," Cray said of her faith. "I'm convinced that I'm nothing if it weren't for my Lord. From beginning to end, God just had this whole transformation plan for me."

That plan, as she put it, included getting Cray to overcome what she describes as a crippling fear of singing in front of a crowd—at her first auditions, she struggled to breathe—and to gain the lead in school plays such as The Mousetrap, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Importance of Being Earnest.

"All you could do was look at her to know how incredibly frightened she was," recalled Cathy Simon, head of Desert Christian's fine-arts department. "Her face was white. We're talking about a disabling kind of fear. ... But she still went out and did it. That's the thing that makes her so remarkable."

Although Cray's path has put her in numerous positions to be the superstar, she takes every opportunity to share the credit. Witness her actions on Desert Christian's girls' soccer team, which reached the Class 1A-3A state finals her freshman year, and the semifinals every year since.

Soccer coach Mark Harting remembers a game in which Cray had what was almost a wide-open goal to shoot at, yet she passed to a teammate so someone else could score.

"Kristen was more excited for Nicole (Ayers) than Nicole was for herself," Harting said. "It's an amazing thing that she has in what she gives to others."

Cray also may have unknowingly made an accurate prediction about a major event in Harting's life. Last summer, she wrote him a letter of support for his work as a water-tanker pilot on a wildfire crew in Arkansas. The letter, which Harting didn't get to read until after returning home, alluded to the idea that whatever "unpleasant, uncomfortable" situations he faced, God was watching over him. There were also references to branches that would hold him back from danger.

Harting was involved in an air-tanker crash early on in Arkansas, but came away with hardly a scratch. Harting said he later learned that the area he descended into had recently been cleared of two large trees. Had they been there, Harting said, he likely wouldn't have survived.

"She has just touched me in so many ways," Harting said. "She is a servant in everything she does. There's nothing that puts her where she's going to pop up and say, 'Hey, look at me. It's all about me.'"

Added Simon: "This is a girl that isn't really interested in getting all the attention for herself. She's doing it because it's what she's supposed to do."

Cray doesn't know if she'll be able to continue the breakneck pace of her activities when she heads to Colorado Christian University this fall in the Denver suburb of Lakewood. Actually, she's hoping she can find a way to be even more valuable to those around her.

"I don't want to be so overcommitted that I can't be where I need to be for others," she said.

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