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Challenge From Dunbar Coach Propels Kalani Lawson to State Record

Cover Photo Courtesy of the University Interscholastic League.

Of all the great athletic accomplishments Fort Worth ISD student-athletes have achieved this season, Dunbar’s Kalani Lawson saved the best for last. 

Lawson won the 4A Girl’s 100m Hurdles with a time of 13.98 seconds, breaking a 27-year-old record in the event set by Groesbeck’s Chimika Carter in 1996. Carter’s previous record of 14.04 seconds means Lawson ran the first sub-14-second time in the event in state meet history not aided by wind.

Despite breaking a record that stood for more than a quarter of a century, that record wasn’t the one Lawson had her eyes on breaking in her sophomore season. Dunbar girls' track coach, Leah Matthews, held the school record in the Girls 100m Hurdles. That record now belongs to Lawson, who told her coach earlier this season that the school record would be hers by the end of the year. 

“[Coach Matthews] kept saying ‘I don’t think you’re going to break it,’ so, I broke [the school record],” Lawson said. “She was proud of me, but she was a little salty.”

Matthews said she only told Lawson she couldn’t break her school record to motivate her. That motivation helped Lawson realize her potential and achieve her goal at the most important meet of the year. 

“I definitely saw [Lawson breaking my record] coming, and knew that she was capable of it” Matthews said. “I’m happy that she did it at the state meet so that everybody else could see it also. She now knows exactly what she has to do to get to this level to be successful again.”

Breaking the school record was a result of Lawson’s coach challenging her to break the school record. As much as Matthews helped Lawson realize her potential, Lawson’s dad, Dunbar football coach Todd Lawson, helped her break the state record before she ever stepped foot on the track.

“[My dad] always tells me to visualize myself before I race, go through my race in my head and to stay by myself so I’m not distracted by others while I’m warming up so I can perform great,” Lawson said. “[After the race] he was proud of me, he was smiling and gave me a hug. And I was proud too.” 

Lawson already holds the fastest time in the Girls 100m Hurdles, but that doesn’t mean she won’t improve on her own time next year. Lawson would like to run in the 13s more consistently throughout her junior year, with the main goal being to run a 13.6. While dominating the 100m Hurdle, her coach thinks she could also challenge the state record in the Long Jump.

Most student-athletes don’t accomplish in four years what Lawson has already accomplished ahead of her junior year. With two full years left at Dunbar, Matthews has plenty of time to continue pushing Lawson to be the best she can be. When high school is over, Lawson hopes to run track at the next level. College coaches should be lining up down the block and around the corner to get Lawson to sign with them, but she has more records to break, including one of her own, before she has to think about which school to pick. 

Breaking the state record was the culmination of hard work, dedication, motivation, great coaching, and a strong support system. Now, Fort Worth ISD’s newest state champion gets to enjoy the summer after a year’s worth of hard work. Preparation for another great track season is on the horizon.