Tucker Dawson didn’t start compe- titive running until he was almost in high school.
His younger sister, Izzy, got an even later start. She was a sophomore before going out for cross-country.
You’d never know it by the results.
Only a few years removed from taking up the sport, the Dawsons are among the area’s top cross-country runners. Both are standouts for their Indian Creek cross-country teams, and both are semistate qualifiers.
Tucker and Izzy will be the Braves’ lone representatives at Saturday’s Brown County Semistate, where they will compete as individuals and — as they’ve done consistently throughout the season — attempt to set personal records.
With few exceptions, both have gotten faster each successive meet.
“That’s something I’m really glad about this year. Every meet I’m still really consistent,” said Tucker, a senior and first-time semistate qualifier.
“If I’m not just on the same time, I’m probably going to have a PR. I would PR almost every meet.
“But if I didn’t, it would be within five to 10 seconds of my PR, so I’ve been consistent all year.”
So has Izzy.
Gearing up for her second straight semistate appearance, the junior has improved throughout the season and is coming off a 19th-place showing at the Brown County Regional. But her improvement is especially noteworthy, if not remarkable, in light of two variables: assorted minor injuries and, more significantly, the lack of a running partner.
Indian Creek did not have enough athletes to field a girls team, so Izzy wasn’t pushed in practice by a teammate. She has to push herself.
“The boys have helped. They’re really good. I wish I could keep up with them,” Izzy said. “There’s no girls (to run with). I’ve just been really pushing myself because I know I want to make it as far as I can (in the postseason).”
Although their accomplishments belie it, Tucker and Izzy didn’t start running until they reached their early teens. The introduction came when their father, Kirk Dawson, started signing them up for triathlons.
By the time they reached high school, each had a passion for running.
Tucker, whose first love was baseball, joined the Braves’ boys cross-country team as a freshman. Izzy didn’t go out until her sophomore year but has competed in cross-country and track ever since.
Both enjoyed success quickly.
Tucker was a regional qualifier last season; but, thanks to an enhanced training program he credits to first-year Braves coach Steve Fleenor, he improved dramatically in this, his final season. He was fourth at the Mid-Hoosier Conference Meet, 13th at the Johnson County Meet and 15th at the sectional and regional.
He set a PR at the sectional with a time of 16:59.
“The training’s had a lot to do with that. I’ve progressively been getting better all year,” Tucker said. “I think it just reflects the coaching that I’ve had this year. The program that we’ve been doing this year just fits me a lot better.
“Last year we would do minutes instead of miles, and you wouldn’t necessarily be as motivated to give it your all. It’s definitely been more mileage, and the different workouts we’ve done have been more effective.”
Fleenor attributes Tucker’s success to a commitment to improve.
“He just does a very good job. He trains hard,” Fleenor said. “He has progressively gotten better throughout the season. He’s run a PR not every meet but nearly every meet. He ran his PR last week, and he was very close to it this week.
“He’s staying consistent.”
As for Izzy, Fleenor marvels at her steady excellence in light of her training limitations.
“It’s a little harder for her because she doesn’t really have a running mate,” Fleenor said. “Tucker has guys he can run with, and that makes training better, easier. Nobody’s running at her level right now. She just takes it on herself.
“She pushes herself. She’s her own motivator.”
But she does get a little help from big brother, who is joining little sister at the semistate.
“I think it’s really cool. I’m glad both of us are in it together,” Izzy said. “We don’t always get along, but he’s my older brother and helps me and shows me how to push through.
“His determination makes me want to do better, too.”
Izzy is also an inspiration for big brother, who is delighted both are making the trip.
“It’s pretty cool that she’s going, too,” Tucker said. “I’m just proud of her that she’s making it, also.”
Name: Tucker Dawson
High School: Indian Creek
Sport: Boys cross-country
On prospects of qualifying for state meet: “Realistically, I don’t know if know if I have a shot. You never know. I could have a really good race and drop a lot of time. My main goal is to try to drop about 20 seconds.”
Other sports: Has played baseball for three seasons but plans to run track in the spring instead.
Name: Isabel “Izzy” Dawson
High school: Indian Creek
Sport: Girls cross-country
On prospects of qualifying for state meet: “It’s really hard to go to state. I just want to PR. I want to finish off the season with my best.”
Other sports: Runs track in the spring
Personal: Parents are Kirk and Erin Dawson.