Friday, May 20th, 2016

Hickman was Celina's first state track champ

Curtain Call

By Robb Hemmelgarn
It's not often that a conscious decision you make as a youngster has a profound effect on the rest of your life, but Celina track and field fans were pleased with Dawn Hickman decision.
"My mother was a long-time piano teacher, so I spent a lot of my childhood with music as the center, but it didn't take long before I figured out that it just wasn't for me," Hickman, formally Dawn Noel, smiled. "I eventually joined gymnastics and diving, but I really enjoyed running and decided to try track and field in high school. The biggest challenge I remember facing in my first year was deciding what events I was going to run."
The initial stages of Hickman's track career for former head coach Vicki Nofzinger was a patchwork of events, but one aspect was evident: she was morphing into a phenomenal runner.
"As my career unfolded, I couldn't thank my teammates and friends enough for all of the support they gave me," Hickman said. "Once I started winning events, it became addicting. Nothing really changed heading into my senior year other than I knew that it would be my last wearing a Celina uniform and I didn't want to let my team down. I always felt that I could make it to state, but I realized how much more of a reality it really was as the season progressed."
Hickman's career caught fire throughout her senior year in 1978 as she established Western Buckeye League records in both the 100-yard dash and 100 hurdles, while also setting school marks in both events along with the long jump mark. When not shattering records in individual events, Hickman was busy doing the same on both the 440 and 880 relays where she was the anchor. Heading into the district meet in 1978, she was destined to continue her dominance when her teenage ambitions away from the oval suddenly set in.
"The district meet was the same night as my senior prom and I told my coach that I didn't think I would compete because I didn't want to miss prom," Hickman said. "She asked if I was crazy and then told me that I needed to strongly reconsider my idea. My boyfriend at the time had his tuxedo rented already, so we had our own mini-prom the night before."
Hickman coasted through districts and regionals in the 100 hurdles, which propelled her toward to her final goal of the season: the Class AAA state track and field meet at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, where she capped her career by capturing Celina's first individual state crown in track and field with a state record time of 14.3 seconds.
"I had never been to state before even as a spectator, so I had absolutely no clue what the atmosphere was going to be like," Hickman said. "Surprisingly I wasn't overwhelmed, but I think a big reason was because I had the best time going in, but the program listed me a second slower. With that, my opponents didn't give me a lot of attention, so it was a huge relief. I still remember crossing the finish line and going absolutely crazy celebrating. It was a very special moment which I will never forget."
The state champion was finally prepared to tackle the next endeavor of her life and once again, a conscious decision turned out to be a gold mine for the track sensation.
"My dad was a professor at Wright State and he wanted me to go there for two years because it would basically be free," Hickman said. "I didn't want to tell him that I really didn't want to go there, so I knew I was on my own finding a place to go. I decided that I wanted to run track at Bowling Green, so I called their coach and sent them all of my newspaper clippings and times. They reached back out to me and gave me a scholarship, so it all worked out and my dad was very happy with it."
Hickman soon understood that, although she was one of the best in the state in high school at her craft, that as a freshman in college she was merely another number.
"My first year was the same season they changed everything in track from yards to meters, so that was definitely an obstacle," Hickman said. "The other big adjustment was going in thinking that I would be fine because I was a state champion. That theory was gone in about two seconds because I was surrounded by girls who were all state champions, so it was a very humbling experience."
Following four years of being Bowling Green's premier hurdler, where she finished by setting numerous school records, Hickman was prepared to hang up her spikes, but first she had one more adventure to undertake.
"By the time my college career was over, I felt that I was ready to move on," Hickman said. "I moved to Pittsburgh, where they held tryouts for the women's Olympic marathon team, so I decided to try it. I studied how to train for a marathon and finally had the opportunity to experience what all the distance runners were referring to about getting a 'runner's high.' Being a sprinter, I never felt anything like that. It was the first and only marathon I ever ran, so it was a remarkable experience."
Today, Hickman is the vice president of All Risks, Ltd. and resides in Collegeville, Penn. She is the mother of two boys and still runs and works out as a bodybuilder on a daily basis, a fitness routine to which she admits having become addicted to in part because of her high school athletic career.
"I always tell my boys that if I interview two people for the same position and they each have identical credentials but one of them has a background in athletics, I always go with the athlete," Hickman said. "Athletics teaches you the most important aspects of life: dedication, focus, winning and losing gracefully, time management and teamwork. I owe so much in my life to growing up as an athlete and can't imagine how hollow it would have been if I didn't compete, because of that I am very grateful for my career at Celina and Bowling Green."
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