sports   |   track & field

Khayla Dawson's drive to win



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Junior Khayla Dawson celebrates her shot put throw of 17.65 meters. The throw won first place at the Big Ten Championships May 11 in Iowa City, Iowa. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

When junior Khayla Dawson launched the 8.8-pound shot put ball at Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track in Iowa City, Iowa, she had a good feeling about the distance of her toss.

It was her first throw at the Big Ten Championships, and she quietly waited for the measurement to be read aloud. Her throw went 17.65 meters — a personal best, a program record and Iowa facility record.  

But the competition wasn’t over. Dawson had to wait and watch as other Big Ten competitors tried to top her mark.

“I didn’t doubt that someone could put something out there, but I didn’t see somebody knocking my mark off,” Dawson said.

Dawson’s feeling was accurate. She was awarded first place in the shot put and became a Big Ten Champion. It was a title she said she felt she should’ve had a season ago when the Big Ten Championships were in Bloomington and she thought she had a chance to win the shot put but ended up placing fifth.

“That was pretty rough for me,” Dawson said. “I used that as fuel coming into this year. I knew this would be the year I would bring it home.”

She described the moment as fun, watching her teammates and fans cheering her on and simply enjoying the sport she began when she was 9 years old.

Dawson originally lived in New York, but spent most of her life in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was there where her dad, who threw shot put at Hampton University, noticed there was a track club and wanted Dawson to try it out. She stopped playing club soccer to throw shot put at the age of 9 and continued it ever since.

At Olympic High School in Charlotte, Dawson finished her career as a five-time state champion — four times in the shot put and once in the discus her senior year.

IU reached out to Dawson her junior year. She said it was the constant letters where IU told her it was keeping up with her progress in high school that piqued her interest. She visited and said she didn’t expect it to be so green, found the campus beautiful and ultimately decided she could spend four years here.

Dawson loves BuffaLouie’s, where she always orders half teriyaki and half hot garlic wings, and has become heavily involved in the School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering in which she studies cybersecurity.

“I like to explore other aspects that I’m good at besides just throwing a ball,” Dawson said.

Her extroverted personality consists of her riding up to practice on a Lime scooter and harshly criticizing the finale of "Game of Thrones." When she’s at the track, Dawson will always have white chalk powdered on her hands and neck as she works to perfect her craft.

Junior Khayla Dawson claps powder on her hands in preparation for her throws in shot put at the 2019 Big Ten Championships in Iowa City, Iowa. Dawson won first place. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

“I always want more,” Dawson said. “Just a never-ending hunger to throw further and just knowing you can do something better.”

As Dawson gets set for the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Florida, this weekend, she hopes to avenge the disappointment she suffered in the post-season last year when she failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

“I could’ve sat there and cried about it, or I could’ve gotten better and just move on,” Dawson said.

Her mindset for this weekend remains the same as it was for the Big Ten Championships. With three attempts, Dawson hopes to land a big mark during her first throw so she can advance and begin to focus on becoming a National Champion.

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