Lawson happy to pass the baton to new generation.

Ethan Morrow saved his best for last.
Since his junior year at Mercer County High School, he had his sights set on breaking the school-record in the 1600-
meter run (4:29.3) set by Dan Lawson. The record stood for over 43 years. But recently, in his final race at the state track
meet in Charleston, Morrow left his mark in the 1600 with a new school record of 4:26.19. “I was worried a bit at the
beginning of state because I almost didn’t make it to the finals,” he said. “I almost did not have another chance to
break the record. “When the finals came around, I decided to go out a little faster in the beginning and then kind
of follow the pack until I got to the area that I needed to be at. We had our goals and I had just one more race to hit it,
and I managed to get it.” Lawson, a 1974 graduate of Aledo High School, grew up in a different era of running. He never had
the opportunity to run cross country even though at 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds he was built to run long distances. Instead,
Lawson played football and started on defense at cornerback. He played basketball and did chores on the farm in the
summertime. He didn’t run indoors, either. His dad (Dave), who passed away a couple years ago, coached track at Aledo
and was instrumental in the building of the track. “Back in 1968, there was nothing there except for a swamp around the football
field,” Dan said. “My brother and I and dad would spend Sundays picking out rocks and laying out the track. Just
about the time I became a freshman they finished it and he took care of it for 20 years. I ran the half mile, the mile and the 2
mile and had three records at one time.” But getting to state for Lawsons and others in the 1970s was tough with
only the one-class system. They had to go through the Quad Cities with the small schools having to compete against the big
Lawson went on to run at Colorado State University with all-Americans and some of his best times were when he was older
in his 30s. He also ran the Boston Marathon, trained for the Olympic trials for several years, and has run the Bix 7 for the past
35 years. And the last couple of years, Lawson has made it a point to travel back to Aledo to talk to the track kids about keeping
their goals and achieving them. He’s also run a couple times with Morrow and has gotten to know the new record
holder in the 1600-meter run at Mercer County High School.
But through it all, he’s happy for the new mark set by Morrow. “I’m so happy for him because he really worked hard and stayed focused on his goals,” Lawson said. “He just put it together in his last race — more power to him.
Records were meant to be broken. That’s what I told him and I’m surprised it was there as long as it was.”

Jeff Holt
GateHouse Media Illinois