Born to run


The Mirror

A lot of Federal Way grade-schoolers make their way to Lake Chelan or Ocean Shores for their family’s annual summer vacation.

Chantel Dixon likes to go off the beaten path. The 11-year-old sixth-grader-to-be at Sacajawea Middle School has made Hershey, Pa. her summer destination of choice.

Chantel made history last month when she qualified for her fourth straight trip to the prestigious Hershey’s Track and Field Program North American Final Meet in Pennsylvania. There is no official data about national meet appearances, but it’s believed Chantel will be the first to make four trips in a row.

“It is fun,” is Chantel’s straight-to-the-point response about what makes the Hershey track meet so special.

Dixon will be part of a 4x100 relay team during Sunday’s national meet along with Federal Way residents Ta’Rea Cunnigan and Ashley Ware and Puyallup resident Sherelle Williams. The foursome finished first at last month’s state Hershey meet in Puyallup and had the top time in the seven-state/province Pacific Northwest Region from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Alberta and British Columbia. The best time in the region gets the national berth.

“This team is very, very good,” said Bruce Dixon, Chantel’s father and the coach of the relay team. “We are looking to go over there and win it, quite honestly. I am looking for good things to happen.”

The relay team won’t be the only representatives from Federal Way in Pennsylvania. Also leaving Friday will be Brianna Okoro, Alexandra Rodriguez and Jayme Carbon. Okoro won the state championship in the girls 13-14 200-meter dash in a time of 26.99, Rodriguez took the girls 9-10 softball throw with a toss of 119 feet, 10 inches and Carbon won the girls 13-14 softball throw with a throw of 173-1.

Carbon, a 13-year-old, is making her second consecutive appearance at the Hershey meet and has something Dixon doesn’t — a national title.

Last year, Carbon easily outdistanced the competition with her arm to win the girls 11-12 softball throw at the Hershey’s Track and Field Youth Program national meet. Carbon’s toss of 168-6 was 12-feet better than the second-place throw.

The kids receive an all-expensed paid trip to Pennsylvania and will be treated to several amenities while in Hershey, including a tour of the chocolate factory, sleeping in college dormitory rooms and other games and activities during their four-day trip.

“They don’t have to pay a penny,” Bruce Dixon said. “But I don’t know how they run in the meet. They are always doing something. They really cater to them.”

According to Chantel, who has plenty of experience, the first day of activities include a banquet and an orientation, the second day starts with an early trip to an amusement park and ends with a tour of the Hershey Chocolate Factory. The third day is the actual track and field meet.

“We get to do a lot when we are there,” said Chantel, who ran the 50-meter dash as an 8-year-old, was on a relay as a 9-year-old and qualified for nationals in the 100 last year.

Her highest finish was a second on the relay team as a 9-year-old. Last year, Chantel wound up fourth in the 100 in a time of 14.92. Chantel will also receive the great honor of carrying in the torch during the opening ceremonies at the national meet.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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