The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Sunday, July 31, 1994                  TAG: 9407290232
SOURCE: Rebecca Myers 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   92 lines


Don't be surprised if one day LaTasha Colander's face is plastered all over the front of a box of Wheaties.

The 17-year-old track star, a member of the U.S. Junior National Team, won a silver medal in the 100-meter hurdles at the World Junior Championships in Portugal on July 22.

Add to that six national championships and 12 state titles, plus a smile that will light up the evening sky, and you definitely have cereal-box material.

LaTasha's specialty is the 100-meter hurdles, which she ran in 13.30 seconds in Portugal, making her the second-fastest hurdler in the world. Her time of 13.36 seconds, run earlier this year, makes LaTasha the record-holder at Wilson High School, where she graduated in June. The old record was 13.57, set in 1988.

``People don't realize what it takes to be at a level that she is,'' said LaTasha's coach, John Crute.

``The only person who was more highly recruited than her in the state of Virginia was Allen Iverson (a high school All-American basketball player from Hampton). She has the grades and she's ranked No. 1 in the country in her event,'' he said.

In about two weeks, LaTasha will leave her Crystal Lake home to begin her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full track scholarship. She plans to major in broadcast journalism.

LaTasha's goals also include a trip to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics.

``My coaches think that I can make it, but nobody knows how I'll do because I'll just be coming out,'' she said. ``A lot of the other competitors have been there for years. I want to be a major competitor when I get there. I really want my times to come down even lower.''

When she's running, LaTasha thinks of little more than staying focused.

She thinks about ``trying to get out fast and doing things a little bit better than I did in practice,'' she said.

``Basically just the technical things. I don't really think of anything else, to tell you the truth. Just the main things that I have to do in that race.''

LaTasha started running competitively in the eighth grade. Because the sport requires so much practice, LaTasha missed out on a lot of the fun things that are part of high school life, her coach said.

But she has no regrets.

``I don't regret anything . . . I knew that track practice consisted of a lot. It wasn't a major deal. The big deal was the (school) workload, just making sure I got in the required classes and got my diploma. Those were the major things. Track was really like fun,'' the honors graduate said.

If she didn't have her running, LaTasha said, she'd definitely be just as focused elsewhere.

``Even if it weren't a sport, I think I'd be very, very involved in something else . . . even if it were just being able to get along with other people,'' she said.

Name: LaTasha Lavonne Colander

Nickname: Tasha

Hometown: Portsmouth

Birthdate: Aug. 23, 1976

School and grade: Graduate of Woodrow Wilson High. Incoming freshman of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Parents: The Rev. and Mrs. John H. Colander

Siblings: Sister, Kris D. Colander, 18

Pets: Dog

Favorite subject: English

Favorite food: Lobster and crabs

Favorite restaurant: Jenny's Restaurant in Suffolk

Hobbies: Shopping and hairstyling

Favorite movie: ``Dying Young''

Favorite song or musical group: ``Silver and Gold''

Favorite sport: Track

Favorite magazine: Essence

Last book read for fun: ``Makes Me Wanna Holler''

Favorite TV show: ``Living Single''

Last smart thing you did: I was baptized at Faith Temple Church, Suffolk.

Who are your heroes: My parents

Your worst habit: Not finishing my food.

Last vacation: Visiting my sister, Kris, in Richmond.

Favorite way to spend a day: Relaxing

If you had 15 minutes on national television, what would you discuss: Salvation, setting goals and having strong willpower.

When I get older, I want to be: A broadcaster ILLUSTRATION: Staff photo by MARK MITCHELL


by CNB