Dalton taking track skills at Berea

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Most college students don't like bluegrass music, but Matt Dalton thinks the bluegrass state is the place he needs to be the next four years.
   Dalton, a standout track and field athlete at Happy Valley High School, will continue his track career at Berea College in Berea, Ky.
   Dalton was noticed by a former Berea pole vaulter, who had been training Jeremy Klontz from Sullivan North. He made the appropriate calls, and Dalton ended up deciding to go there.
   "Robert from Sullivan North was a graduate from Berea, and he was training Jeremy Klontz," Dalton said. "He was the last real pole vaulter Berea had I guess. He recruited me actually for cross country, because he saw that I had a decent time. I told him that I didn't want to do cross country, but I would like to do pole vault up there. As it turns out I'll probably be running anyways. It all depends on what Coach (Mike) Johnson says.
   "I really just talked to Robert a lot. Through the track season I've talked to him, because he's always been over at North helping Jeremy. I'll talk to him, and he will relay things to Coach Johnson, which are things like times and heights and how I'm doing in the track season. As far as recruitment, it was really Robert."
   Dalton, who graduated with a 3.91 G.P.A. at Happy Valley, actually earned an academic scholarship to Berea. This made his choice of colleges a lot easier.
   "I wanted to major in engineering, so I was thinking about Tennessee Tech," Dalton said. "But the financial situation was a lot better at Berea. I don't want to have to apply for all these scholarships and things, I would rather have it done in one. And Berea gives a huge scholarship when you're in. I like that."
   Dalton should be a strong contributor for Berea. He qualified for the state meet in the pole vault, and the 300 meter hurdles this year.
   Dalton nearly won the pole vault at state, as he finished second in the event.
   Dalton is happy with the track accolades, but is even happier with what he has accomplished in the classroom.
   "I'm happy with the track accomplishments and everything, but I'm more pleased with the academic accomplishments. As far as track and athletics go, you can't depend on those. You never know how your body is going to hold up.
   You can get in a car accident. I would rather depend on academics. That's another reason I like Berea. It was a full academic scholarship."
   Despite being a standout in the classroom, Dalton is a fierce competitor on the track. He was a little disappointed about finishing second.
   "I would have like to have been state champion," Dalton said. "Then again you can't beat yourself up over it. I can't go back in time. There are things that I would have done differently, but there's always four more years at college that I can improve. High school's a little slice of the cake."
   Dalton has moved on from the state meet, as he has very high aspirations for his college athletic career.
   "I would like to go to nationals," Dalton said. "I would like to jump 16-6. That would probably qualify me for nationals."
   Dalton started his athletic career playing soccer, but realized he wasn't going to be able to do that in high school due to Happy Valley not having a team.
   That's when he decided to take up track and cross country, and the success started from there.
   "I've played soccer most of my life, from about kindergarten up to eighth grade," Dalton said. "I was actually on a team made up of mostly Elizabethton students. It was a traveling team. When they went to their high school team and everything, I couldn't very well go over there and be on that team or I didn't think at the time that I could have been. I actually probably could have due to some rules.
   "I had the wrong idea about cross country. I didn't know it was a three-mile course. I liked it. It was all right. I didn't really know what I was getting into. In track season, pole vault really kept me into it. I fell in love with that. Running was OK, but pole vault was what I really liked."
   Dalton helped lead Happy Valley to a lot of success this year, and he's leaving the program in good hands. David Hughes and Katie Williams will both be candidates to win state championships in track and cross country next year.
   "I can't say anything for sure, but I've got faith in them," Dalton said. A lot of people burn out, but I don't think they will. I think they could both take home state titles in cross country, if not in track."
   Dalton believes he has been influenced greatly by his coach, Don Verran. He has also always had encouragement from his parents, Sam and Ginger Dalton. Mr. Dalton is the youth minister at Pinecrest Baptist Church in Johnson City.
   Dalton treasures the support.
   "Coach and my parents have always encouraged me," Dalton said. "In just about everything I've done, they've been behind it. My parents my whole life, my coach these last four years. There all like my coaches, in life and in my sports. Academics and everything, they've held me to high standards."
   Dalton will leave home soon to go to Kentucky, and he's ready to take that next step.
   "I need a change," Dalton said. "I've lived here all my life. There's probably really nothing better out there. I figure if I go up there for awhile it will get me used to living on my own. I can't stay around forever. I've got to move on."