UNLV sprinter’s eyes on future

UNLV track standout Lekeisha Lawson is not one to dwell on the past, and that’s a good thing.

Since joining the team two years ago, Lawson has seen her share of hard times. A pair of crippling injuries and a complete overhaul of the Rebels coaching staff slowed her, but they caused little damage to her long-term confidence.

The junior sprinter proved her ability to persevere by winning the 200-meter dash at the Lumberjack Invitational on Jan. 19 in Flagstaff, Ariz. With her career-best indoor time of 24.91 seconds in the event, Lawson was named Mountain West Conference Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Week.

“I’m really happy with that,” said Lawson, who also took third in the 60 meters. “It’s the first time I’ve won that award, and it’s pretty exciting.”

There were times last season when the Victorville, Calif., native wondered if she’d be able to overcome injuries to her right hip and hamstring. Even after intense rehabilitation, there were other obstacles to overcome.

“Last year really hurt me,” said Lawson, who was limited to two indoor and four outdoor appearances last season, “because now I don’t have as much experience as some of the other runners in the conference. But it helped me fix what was wrong. The injuries had to do with the way I was training.”

After taking off the second half of the 2007 outdoor season, Lawson learned that head coach Barbara Ferrell-Edmonson was retiring after five seasons at UNLV. Former Long Beach State assistant Yvonne Scott-Williams was named as her replacement, meaning Lawson would be forced to make further adjustments.

“Fortunately, there’s been a very smooth transition,” said Lawson, who in high school won three 100-meter league championships. “The coaches have created a very positive environment.”

Scott-Williams said she’s happy to have Lawson on her roster, noting that UNLV’s track program had struggled for years before her arrival.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect much when I came here,” Scott-Williams said. “I was aware of what the program was doing, and I knew the team hadn’t done so well in conference meets because there were a lot of injuries.”

But the coach was well aware of Lawson’s talent.

“I knew who she was because I tried to recruit her when I was at Long Beach State,” Scott-Williams said. “So I knew I was going to have something to work with when I got here.”

Lawson said she was determined to confirm her coach’s hunch in the Rebels’ season opener.

“I ran so poorly last year,” Lawson said. “But I knew my training was going well and I could do it.”

Indeed, her strong performance in Arizona boosted her confidence and led her to re-evaluate her goals for the 2008 season.

“I’ve just got to take things a week at a time,” Lawson said. “But I know I want to place at least top-three (in the conference) because I placed fourth indoors as a freshman.”

Though she still worries about aggravating her injuries, Lawson said she finally is able to look ahead with optimism.

“I can’t wait to see what happens,” she said. “Our conference is really competitive, but we’re getting way better. Next year, we’ll be even better.”

Scott-Williams agreed, noting that high-profile athletes such as Lawson make her job easier.

“It’s a big benefit,” said the coach, who pointed out the recruiting edge she gains with each of Lawson’s strong performances. “It’s nice to have top athletes around to represent where your program’s going.”

Lawson and the Rebels will travel to Seattle, where they will compete indoors at the Washington Invitational on Friday and Saturday.


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