By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
CASSTOWN — Gabrielle Hawkins knew what she wanted. She just didn’t know if she’d get the opportunity.
So she took a chance — and it paid off.
Hawkins, a senior two-sport athlete for the Miami East High School track and volleyball teams, recently signed her national letter of intent to run Division I track in college at Kent State University, something she wasn’t sure if would be possible.
“I want to go to school for fashion merchandising. And every time I looked it up, Kent State showed up,” Hawkins said. “Their fashion merchandising program is ranked really high in the country, and that’s what originally attracted me to them. But I figured that since it was a Division I school, there was no way I could run there.
“Finally, I just decided to go for it. I emailed the coach, and they gave me a chance.”
In the end, it was Hawkins’ track specialty — she’s a state placer in the 400-yard dash — that put her over the top.
“They needed more 400 runners,” she said. “My times in the 400 are more comparable to what they need. In the shorter sprints, I don’t think I’m fast enough. And I think my performance at state last year helped a lot, too.”
After narrowly qualifying for the state meet with a fourth-place finish at the regional, Hawkins shined at state, finishing sixth at the Division II state meet her junior year, running a time of 58.06 seconds. She missed her sophomore season due to an injury suffered in basketball, but placed at the state indoor meet leading up to her junior track season.
Hawkins was also a standout as a libero and defensive specialist for the Vikings’ volleyball team. She finished as the school’s career leader in digs with 1,185, set the single-season record with 560 and was part of the program’s third state championship team as a freshman.
Hawkins officially signed with the Golden Flashes in late February, with the goal being to enter her senior track season without the burden of choosing a college on her shoulders. She then competed at this year’s state indoor meet on March 7, placing fifth in the 400 in 59.32 seconds and seeming primed for a big spring finish to her high school career.
And then 2020 happened.
“In the fall, I was worried about committing,” Hawkins said. “But now that we might not have a spring season, I’m glad I decided early.”
Two days after the state indoor meet, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency after the state’s first COVID-19 cases were confirmed. Later that week, the governor ordered the state’s schools closed, and the Ohio High School Athletic Association postponed and eventually cancelled its remaining winter sports postseason tournaments, as well as indefinitely postponing the start of spring season, which should have begun on March 28.
“It’s super weird,” Hawkins said. “I’ve still been trying to work out and run and keep in shape, just in case we have a season. It’s different, for sure.”
With a “stay at home” order in place and the schools closed until at least May 1, the OHSAA is still keeping hope alive that a shortened season can be salvaged. Until then, Hawkins will continue to prepare just in case and look forward to departing for Kent State in the fall.
“Honestly, I’d love to see them put together a shortened season, whatever that can be,” Hawkins said. “I still want to go back to state and see if I can get higher than I did last year.”
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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