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Runner awarded track scholarship
Walters Signing pic
Dawson County senior Madalyn Walters, seated center, is surrounded by her parents and coaches as she signs a cross country and track scholarship with the University of Georgia last week. - photo by Chelsea Thomas Dawson Community News

Dawson County senior Madalyn Walters became the first student in Dawson County High School history to sign a Division I cross country and track scholarship when she signed with the University of Georgia last week.

The high school held a signing ceremony in the media center at 9:15 a.m. Feb. 2.

"From the viewpoint of our community and our school we couldn't be any more proud of what you accomplished," said Athletic Director Grady Turner. "Not many people get to be trailblazers, but you certainly are and have been."

Walters's scholarship followed a successful year. She finished her high school cross-country career finishing fourth in the state AA cross country meet in Carrollton in October 2011.

Walters also won the Region 8-AA championship at Oglethorpe County in spring 2011. She finished first in the 3,200-meter championship and second in the 1,600-meter championship at the state AA track meet.

Overall, in 2011, Walters placed first in five races, third in two others and was selected as the 2011 Times Cross Country Girls Athlete of the Year.

"An athlete like this comes around only once every 10 to 15 years," said Dawson County coach Brian DeRose.

"This is one of the most successful athletes I've ever coached and the first one I have sent off to a Division I school. I am real proud of her. She is going to do really well," he added.

Walters began running cross country during her freshman year of high school to prepare herself for basketball, which, at the time, was her passion. Yet, her focus slowly shifted to cross country and she recognized the sport needed more attention.

A dedicated person, Walters said she decided to put her full energy into it.

DeRose watched her progress and helped her realize her potential.

"With distance running, or any endurance sport, 10 percent is physical and the rest is mental. There are probably a dozen kids here that could run just as fast but they don't have the work ethic or the desire. Madalyn has all those things," DeRose said.

Walters and DeRose's current goal is to get her cross-country running time shorter.

"Our goal this year was to get her down to 18:45 and she ended up running 18:30 in her last race, so that was wonderful," DeRose said.

When she is at the college level she aims to reach the 17-minute mark, "which for girls is really fast," according to DeRose.

Walters intends to study exercise science at the University of Georgia in hopes of becoming a pediatric physical therapist because she "likes working with kids and learning about the body."

Her calling to run is unique she explains, one tying into her personal faith.

"God gives me a purpose to run and that's the reason I am, because every step is for Him. The more I trust Him the more I can succeed," Walters said.

Walters is only the third Dawson County High School student to receive a track and cross-county scholarship.

The most recent one was five years ago to Mercer University.