He also knew of her talent by looking at the times she ran during her summer training season that were posted online.
A quiet and somewhat shy athlete at first, Dunston has come into her own this season as one of McEachern’s leaders, and her experience and training will be invaluable as the Indians prepare to host the Region 4AAAAAA track and field championships Thursday and Friday.
The defending champion in the 400 meters, Dunston will look to add to her title haul this week. She also placed second in the 200 meters last year, while helping the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays teams to gold in those events.
This year’s goals are no different for Dunston, who has set her sights on first place finishes in every event.
“I’m trying to get a ring at state in the 400 and the 200,” Dunston said. “But, it all starts with region. I want to defend my 400 title and win the 200, then go to sectionals and to it again.
“Our relay teams are really strong too, and we won those at region last year. So, I’m hoping me and my teammates can repeat and continue on through to state.”
Dunston’s desire to win came at a young age when she discovered that running was a passion of hers.
“I ran a lot when I was younger,” explained Dunston, who said she started running track when she was eight years old. “I would always ask my parents to come watch me run just for the fun of it. But, one day, my elementary school teacher told my parents that I should run track and I’ve been doing it ever since.
“I like that in track it’s all about me as an individual. I run for myself and prove to myself and to other people that I have the talent to win. It’s fun for me to go out there and do this for myself.”
Dunston’s hard work and strength training has helped her improve her speed and times over the years. Her signature events have become the 200 and 400 races, while she also assists with the relays. Dunston is also learning to compete in the triple jump.
“My strategy in the 400 is to push myself in the beginning and finish hard at the end,” said the diminutive Dunston who stands at 5-foot-3 1/2. “Tall girls have a longer stride, but I don’t see them as a threat. I just push myself and get my legs moving and I go.”
“She has power and works hard at what she does,” Hoskins said. “Her times have been coming down since she joined the team as a freshman and she’s a lot stronger than she use to be.”
Dunston’s personal bests include running 24.49 in the 200 and 54.46 in the 400, the latter of which came when she finished second at the 2012 USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships held in July at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
“That race gave me a lot of confidence,” said Dunston, who competes for the Titans Track Club over the summer and considers four-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix her favorite track athlete. “There was more competition there and I did really well, so I was really happy about my performance. My 4x400 team won nationals and my 4x100 placed third, so it was pretty exciting. This summer, I’m going to try and get first.”
Before summer rolls around, however, Dunston is focused on this week. She is coming off a sprained hamstring injury, so her status is questionable for a few events, especially the triple jump. She is confident she’ll be able to pull through the rest.
“I eat pretty healthy and drink throughout the day so that I have the energy to compete and my body heals properly,” Dunston said. “I’m use to what I can and can’t do. My body has really adapted to running.”
Assistant coaches Cedric Sapp and Brian Smith have also been key in Dunston’s development.
“She’s handled her growth well through the years,” Hoskins said. “She’s a team captain and an A student who has taken the roll of leader very well. She gets everything out of her ability that she can.”