It’s easy for Buckeye Valley sophomore cross country runner Chloe Dawson to look back at last season and wonder about what might have been.
An injury derailed a season in which she won six straight regular-season meets and broke the school record twice before things ground to a halt right before the MOAC race.
And would-a, could-a’s aside, Dawson is champing at the bit to get back out there this year. So much so that BV coach Nate Ritz is trying to reel her in to avoid another injury.
“She’s an extremely hard-worker,” Ritz said. “Her mileage is probably not as high as some others just because we’re trying to (avoid another injury). So, we’re kind of slowly building her up.”
Dawson’s response? How about some cross training?
“I’ve been trying to do more swimming and biking,” she said. “It’s always good to strengthen core and make sure my legs and arms are strong. I’m just trying to stay strong in general. I think that’s going to help a lot to prevent injuries.”
Both Ritz and Dawson didn’t see this kind of success coming this quickly.
“I knew she was going to be good – I didn’t know she was going to be quite that good,” Ritz said. “She posted pretty good times as an eighth grader. But, she really took off. She exceeded my expectations by a lot.”
“I think that might have given me a big advantage over some people,” Dawson said. “I didn’t have a lot of pressure on me. I wasn’t expected to perform. I was just going out and having fun and seeing what I could do.”
Dawson might have won all seven meets had Ritz not held the team back in the opener at Northmor.
Dawson broke Jenny Brooks’ record of 19:15.4 (set in 2001) twice and had five races in which she bested that time.
She broke the record first at the Tiffin Cross Country Invitational with a time of 18:21.7 Sep. 9 before breaking it again two races later clocking in at 17:26.06 at the Midwest Meet of Champions Sep. 30.
But her storybook season didn’t come without adversity. She felt some pain in her foot after the Barons’ regular-season finale at Marion Harding.
“I didn’t run a time that was particularly fast or slow for me,” Dawson said. “It’s just that when I took my spikes off after – it just felt weird.”
She went to the doctor, who found a stress fracture and told her the season was over.
“I thought she was done for the year,” Ritz said. “That’s pretty much what you expect when you have a stress fracture. We didn’t have the luxury to take some time off. We were at a crucial part of the season.”
Her parents took her to a specialist, who gave her the go-ahead to run after some rest. She was forced to keep the weight off her foot with a walking boot.
“(The doctor) said I was able to do some cross training,” Dawson said. “I wasn’t able to run a lot, but I was still doing something to prepare.”
Unfortunately, this meant she would miss out on some accolades. She missed out on the MOAC race and all-conference honors as a result.
She was still wearing a boot and was unable to train in the days leading up to the district and regional races and took it off long enough to compete.
She ran in those races, but wasn’t nearly at full strength. So, she missed out on all-district and all-regional honors as well.
“At first I was pretty upset about it,” Dawson said. “I kind of had to look at the bigger picture and think that’s what’s best for me. If I can keep pushing toward states … that’s the ultimate goal. It stinks to miss those things, but in the end that’s what matters the most.”
Thankfully, her teammates helped out her out. Fellow freshmen Ashley Beatty, Bailey Kreft, Chayse Arnhold and Jia Radloff helped BV to a third-place finish at the district race.
Beatty, Kreft, Arnhold and senior Susie York helped Dawson give the Barons a fifth-place finish at the regional race to advance.
“I’m really thankful that I had my teammates because without them I wouldn’t have been able to run at states,” Dawson said.
Ritz took the reins off as well.
“I told her to push it because there’s nothing left to hold back for,” he said.
Her time of 18:39.5 was good for sixth place and a spot on the podium. It was also the fastest time for a freshman.
“It was a great way to finish off a rough post-season,” Ritz said.
Dawson averaged 19:17.5 during the regular season and 18:43.9 in the six races after her debut “workout.”
It’s probable that Dawson would have at least received honors and would have been in contention to win all three races. The MOAC winner finished with a time of 19:40.1, the district-winning time was 19:04.96 and the regional-winning time was 18:42.62.
Still, wondering what might have been serves as motivation for the upcoming season, which begins with BV’s Baron Blast Aug. 25.
“I am really, really excited for this season,” Dawson said. “This year, I’ve got a little bit more focus going into the season because I know what my goals are and I know what I’m trying to do.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.