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Girls Track: Dawson wears look of determination

Sandwich junior Dawson breaks 400 record, leads group of Indians to state meet

It's the look of determination.

It shows up on Maddie Dawson's face on the back stretch of every 400-meter dash, what some consider the most difficult race in track. When others are wilting, the Sandwich junior is just getting started.

"She just doesn't get tired," Sandwich coach Dusty Behringer said. "She almost relishes that last 100. She gets that look on her face and loves it."

That kind of attitude led Behringer to affectionately refer to Dawson as "Mad Dog," and the nickname stuck.

She had much to be happy about last Friday.

Running a 59.52 400 at the Class 2A Mendota Sectional, Dawson broke Ali Peuler's school record run of 59.66 set back in 2004.

Dawson is one of four Sandwich girls in six events to qualify for the state track and field meet at Eastern Illinois in Charleston this weekend.

"I knew that I had a fair chance at making it to state, but I didn't expect to break the record that night," Dawson said. "I crossed the finish line and I heard some of the LaSalle-Peru coaches yelling at their runner's time. I looked at my coach and said 'Seriously, did I run that?' It was definitely a great night."

It was Dawson's first time breaking a minute in the metric quarter-mile.

Right place, right time.

"I knew she had it in her. She's had four or five meets running 61-second 400s and a lot of those were running by herself," Behringer said. "We needed a hot day, and a hot track. Last Friday it was a warm day, I put put my hands over the track and I told Maddie 'You feel that, the track is hot. You're going to have a great time.'"

It's the continuation of a late-blooming track career.

Dawson never ran track before high school, but followed basketball teammate Emily Ness into the sport as a freshman. She started off doing the 300 hurdles, eventually gravitating toward the 400. Dawson tried pole vault this spring, and took third in conference and sectionals.

"Track was always something I wanted to try, and so I followed Emily Ness into it to give it a try," Dawson said, "and I loved it. I've always been one to take on new things."

"She's just an athlete and naturally gifted," Behringer said. "It's really been fun to see her evolve into a leader on this team and taken on that role."

Dawson had the 12th-fastest 400 in sectionals going into Friday's state preliminaries. Teammate Maddie Robinson had the 12th-best shot put of 37 feet, 5.5 inches. Back on the track, Sandwich sophomore Sara Ness is the 10th Indians hurdler to reach state in the last 12 years.

And Sandwich junior Kayla Schiera – a state qualifier in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 – is tentatively planning on running all three races in Charleston.

"We'll treat the 800 as a warmup to the [1,600] on Friday," Behringer said. "She only needs to run the 3,200 once, on Saturday. We have a real shot to bring home some hardware."

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