Rival hurdlers vying again
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
April 26, 2014 04:04 AM | 1919 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After splitting state titles in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles last year, Wheeler’s Natisha Dixon, left, and North Cobb’s Shanel Burr are battling again.
<Br>Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
After splitting state titles in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles last year, Wheeler’s Natisha Dixon, left, and North Cobb’s Shanel Burr are battling again.
Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
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At last season’s Class AAAAAA state championships, Wheeler’s Natisha Dixon raced neck-and-neck with North Cobb’s Shanel Burr in the finals of the 100-meter hurdles.

Burr finished the race in 13.98 seconds to win her first state title, while Dixon placed second with a time of 14.16.

The result didn’t sit well with Dixon.

“That did bother me to get second,” she said. “I was ‘boo-hoo’ crying at first because I wanted to win real bad. But, because it was against Shanel, getting second didn’t feel as bad as it could have.”

Dixon’s attitude towards losing to Burr is indicative of not only the respect these two athletes share for one another, but how competitive they are towards one another.

Dixon did go on to win the 300 hurdles later in the day in a personal-best time of 42.78, to claim her own state championship, but getting the 100 hurdles title is still a goal

So, with the sectional meets taking place today, including the Class AAAAAA event at McEachern, the seniors have another weekend to continue their longstanding rivalry heading into next weekend’s state championships in Albany.

“I would consider us friends, but on the field, we’re competitors,” Burr said. “We don’t text or call each other, but we can talk when we see each other because we’ve known each other for so long.”

“We’ve been competing against each other all our lives,” Dixon added.

As Burr and Dixon compete today at McEachern, other Cobb County athletes will compete in sectionals at Starr’s Mill (Class AAAAA) and Landmark Christian (Class A private).

Burr and Dixon both started running track at about the same time in elementary school. Dixon began specializing in the hurdles as a sixth-grader, while Burr started as a seventh-grader. They saw each other regularly at events prior to high school and over the summer with their respective track clubs.

“We were in the pentathlon when we were younger,” Dixon said.

“We ran for fun back then,” Burr commented. “But once we hit high school, it became serious and more of a priority. We take our training serious, and we’ve developed into good hurdlers.

Burr and Dixon have become two of the best in the state at what they do. Region champions at both distances, Burr’s personal-best in the 100 hurdles is 13.88 to Dixon’s 13.98, while Dixon’s 300 PR is 42.78 to Burr’s 43.83.

“Tisha’s best attribute is that she’s so strong,” Burr said. “She finishes a race.”

Dixon has taken notice of Burr over the years as well.

“Shanel’s technique is really smooth,” she said. “She has good arms and a quick lead-leg going over the hurdles.”

While Dixon and Burr have already won state championships, Hillgrove’s Chelsea Crayton is out to get one for herself.

Also a senior, Crayton has been running track since she was 5 years old. She got a later start on the hurdles than Burr and Dixon did, first specializing in the sport in her freshman season at Hillgrove.

Crayton failed to qualify for the state finals in both hurdle events last year, but she’s out to rectify that mistake this season.

Crayton beat Burr in the 300 hurdles at the county championships with a personal-best time of 43.84, and she placed third behind Burr and Dixon in the 100 hurdles. She lost to Burr in both events at the Region 4AAAAAA championships as well, despite holding a lead at the final hurdle of the 300 before finishing third.

“I had a bad season last year,” said Crayton, whose personal best in the 100 hurdles is 14.24. “But I’m more confident this season and ready to move on to the next level.

“When I didn’t race in the state finals last year, and saw Natisha and Shanel win state championships, I thought that could have been me up there, so I worked towards that future, knowing it could be me now.”

Like Burr and Dixon, Crayton, who has run unattached from a track club the past two seasons, doesn’t talk much with her adversaries at meets, though they do converse elsewhere.

With the final two weeks of the season upon the three hurdlers, the battle for the top of the podium becomes even more intense. There are only two state titles available for the three talented seniors.

Crayton says the 300 is her best race, because she has more time to get her speed up. Dixon also cited the 300, while Burr’s best is the 100.

The rivalry between Burr and Dixon will continue in college, with Burr heading to Virginia Tech and Dixon going to Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina. Crayton will run track at North Texas.

All three, however, could get one last shot at one another over the final two weeks of this season.

“You can tell Chelsea wants (a state title) bad,” Dixon said. “Shanel and I go back and forth, so we want it, too. Now, Chelsea has her ‘A’ game going in her senior year, so we’re all looking to finish out our senior year in a special way. We all want to win the title because of who we’re competing against to get it.”

“It’s ramped up now,” Burr said. “We’re trying to go out with a final bang. The races will be intense when we all run together. I’m really excited and ready to see what happens. We’re going to leave it all on the line.”

“I’m excited for the season,” Crayton added. “I’m looking forward to it ending with a boom.”
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