Giving back to the youth drives Jordan’s new track coach
Jun 10, 2019 11:21AM
● By Ron Bevan
Alyssa Dalton has brought her experience competing at BYU to the Jordan track team, taking over the Beetdiggers squad this year. (Photo provided by Alyssa Dalton)
By Ron Bevan | [email protected]
Sometimes life takes us places we didn’t plan. What we think we want isn’t exactly the right fit for us. And sometimes, others see our lot in life long before we recognize it.
Such is the journey for Jordan’s new track coach, Alyssa Dalton. Once convinced she would eventually turn her back on the sport she has loved as a child, Dalton is now trying to inspire young athletes to dream as big as she dared to dream.
“I didn’t want to be a teacher and there was little money in just being a coach,” Dalton said of her formative years. “People always told me I should be a coach but I always said no way. But I had five different coaches from high school through college, and I learned so much from them that I wanted to pass it along to others.”
There was just one hurdle Dalton had to clear before she landed the job at Jordan: time. Dalton interviewed at Jordan knowing full well she couldn’t take the position at the time Jordan needed a new coach. She still had one more year to go at BYU. But Dalton was used to clearing 10 hurdles in her races, so one more wasn’t going to stop her.
“Early in the interview the principal asked me if I would even be able to take the job when they wanted me. I told her no, but that I planned on spending the rest of the interview convincing her that she should offer me the position the next year.”
Her convincing worked. Jordan Principal Wendy Dau and Athletic Director Brandon Watts knew Dalton was the best fit for the plans they had in mind for the track team.
“Two track seasons ago we were looking for a new track coach,” Watts said. “We had several candidates, but it didn’t look like any would work. Then we interviewed Dalton. She didn’t have much experience but when we interviewed her we knew she was our coach. I told the principal she was the one I wanted to coach our track team. We just had to wait a year so she could finish school.”
So Watts teamed up with softball coach John Lundstrom to coach the 2018 track team in order to be able to give the job to Dalton when she finished at BYU.
The type of attitude Jordan was looking for in a track coach was on display at the end of Dalton’s collegiate career. Dalton had earned a spot in the NCAA nationals, but at a huge cost. She tore her ACL in her right knee during qualifying, an injury that would knock out most runners let alone one jumping over hurdles. But she was determined to finish her career with a run at nationals. One motivating factor was that nationals was to be held at her former college, the University of Oregon.
“I was going to do whatever it took to at least start the race at nationals,” Dalton said. “I wasn’t even sure if I could get over a hurdle but five days later I tried to jump a hurdle and was successful. I then focused on getting ready to clear all 10 hurdles.”
Using a brace to stabilize the knee, Dalton ran at nationals with the fully ruptured ACL and completed the race. It wasn’t the fastest finish ever, but it was an important, groundbreaking finish.
“I just wanted to finish what I had started,” she said. “I had earned that. I had worked so hard and it had been a long journey for me through other injuries. I wanted to show people you can do hard things. It was kind of a miracle that I could clear 10 hurdles just 11 days after the tear.”
Dalton’s track career began at just 9 years old, when she lived in Fresno, California. Organized sports were part of the curriculum in elementary schools in California, beginning at the fourth grade level. Dalton was in third grade when a field trip kept the fourth graders from competing in a track meet.
“The third graders were asked to fill in and that’s when I found out how much I liked running,” Dalton said. “From early on I knew I was a runner. My sister and I would win all the jogathons.”
As Dalton grew older she realized speed was her friend. She grew to love the sprints more than the jogathons. Then, in ninth grade, her high school coach made a decision that completely changed Dalton’s life.
“He convinced me to switch from just running to competing in the heptathlon,” Dalton said. “The decision helped pave the way for me to compete in college.”
The heptathlon is a series of seven events over two days, combining field events with sprints, distance and hurdles races.
Dalton was soon tearing up the track in California. In 2011 she finished fifth in heptathlon scoring at a national high school meet in Eugene, Oregon.
Numerous scholarship offers came her way. Dalton chose to compete for the University of Oregon, but her collegiate career would have several bumps along the way.
A series of injuries extended a normal collegiate career from four years to seven for Dalton. She eventually transferred to BYU from Oregon, and changed from a heptathlete to a hurdler, her best event.
Along the way Dalton was told many times she would make a great track coach.
“I was told all the time I would be a good coach,” Dalton said. “Most athletes can be like robots and just say yes or complain because they don’t want to do the hard stuff. But I wanted to know why we did the things we did. I would ask so many questions, especially in high school, that my coach kept telling me I would coach someday.”
Dalton was exposed to the coaching aspect while at BYU. She was one of the athletes used as a coach during the summer track camps. That’s when the light went on for her and she knew she wanted to be a coach.
“Once I started coaching I knew I wanted to be around the kids more, and that’s when I realized I wanted to teach,” Dalton said. “Over the years I had changed my view completely about being a teacher.”
Dalton was asked about coaching at the collegiate level, but she knew that wasn’t for her.
“I like the high school age,” Dalton said. “It is the development age where my coach was able to prime for me a path to get to college. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am at now. I hope to be that change and make a difference in others’ lives.”