Team Tuesday: Dunbar's Kalani Lawson Hopes to Break Her State Record

Cover Photo courtesy of the University Interscholastic League. 


As Fort Worth ISD celebrates Women’s History Month, FWISD is honoring those who made history in sports for the Team Tuesday theme. 

It’s not often, maybe ever, that a state record holder returns to school to try to beat the record. Dunbar’s Kalani Lawson isn’t most people. The junior track star set a UIL State record in the 100m Hurdle with a time of 13.98 seconds at the state track meet in May 2023. Not only did Lawson win the Girl’s 4A 100m Hurdles, but she also ran the first sub-14-second time in the event in state meet history not aided by wind. 

At the time, Lawson was more concerned with breaking Dunbar’s school record in the 100m Hurdles. That record was set by her track coach at Dunbar, alumna Leah Matthews-Gilliam. In the process, Lawson ended up making school and state history with her record time. To accomplish that as a sophomore is unheard of, but now Lawson returns to school to try to improve on her time and make her record even harder to beat. 

“I want to break the record again,” Lawson said. “I want to try to lower my time even more. My goal is for anything lower than a 13.9 at the moment.”

Lawson will have two seasons to try and beat her record. Last year, Lawson told Fort Worth ISD that beating coach Matthews-Gilliam’s record was the primary motivator for her throughout the season. Now the motivation comes from wanting to improve as much as possible in the 100m Hurdles, as well as the other events she competes in. 

Despite having beat her coaches record, Lawson still looks up to Matthews-Gilliam as someone who has competed at the collegiate level. Matthews-Gilliam starred at Stephen F. Austin University as a heptathlete, something Lawson strives to do at the collegiate level. The heptathlon is a seven event athletic contest that consists of different track and field events. 

“I think she does [look up to me],” Matthews-Gilliam said. “Particularly the heptathlete piece resonates with her. She was intrigued and excited [to be coached] by someone who did that.” 

Matthews-Gilliam noted that Lawson’s growth over the last year hasn’t entirely come on the track as she has also stepped up off the track in more of a leadership role, despite only being a junior. 

“The whole team looks up to her,” Matthews-Gilliam said. “Kalani is Dunbar track and field right now. The team goes as Kalani goes, which in most cases is always a good thing.” 

There’s no limit to what Lawson could accomplish over her last two track seasons at Dunbar. As exciting as it is to imagine what could be to come from Lawson, it’s important to continue to celebrate her record-breaking accomplishment in 2023.

“I didn’t know I broke the state record at first,” Lawson said. “I was really looking at the time because I beat coach Matthews’ record for the school, so that’s what I was worried about at first. On the announcements, they had mentioned that I broke the state record so I was very excited and proud.”

Even though coach Matthews-Gilliam watched her school record fall, she has been proud to coach Lawson and watch her grow into the student-athlete she is now. Despite all Lawson has accomplished, her track coach is still her greatest resource in getting to where she wants to go, that destination being a star heptathlete in college. 

“It’s exciting to see her growth,” said Matthews-Gilliam. “As a teacher and an educator, it’s always good to see your students grow and mature. To see her, particularly on the track, mature and blossom into an athlete that’s going to be known throughout the state, what more could I ask for?”