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FSU sprinter Dix excels in classroom, too

Walter Dix passed up big bucks to return for his senior year.

Walter Dix passed up big bucks to return for his senior year.

Florida State's Walter Dix could have taken the money and run.

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After leading the Seminoles to a second straight NCAA outdoor track and field championship in June 2007 with a dazzling display not seen at that meet in a generation, he received lucrative offers to turn professional.

But the star sprinter wasn't in a hurry.

He was determined to earn his degree before dollars.

"People thought it was dumb, but I never paid attention to it," Dix said of his decision to turn down multimillion-dollar deals and return for his senior year. "I didn't come to school to just be a track and field athlete."

He knows that running will only carry him so far, so long.

"His mother (Plinnie) is a chemistry and biology teacher at Monarch High, and I'm an assistant principal here (at New River Middle School in Fort Lauderdale)," said his father, Washington. "Education is at the forefront of what we do."

Since April, Dix's degree in social science has been in hand.

This week, the chance to help FSU three-peat is within his grasp.

He and his teammates left Monday for Des Moines, Iowa, and the NCAA meet, which begins Wednesday. Dix, 22, is scheduled to compete in the 100- and 200-meter sprints, races he won last year, races that could be a springboard for him at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials.

"I'm really happy for Walter," FSU coach Bob Braman said. "It's working out well for the team, obviously, but more than anything, it's all working out well for him."

And it didn't seem like it would.

At least, athletically.

Dix came down with strep throat and missed the indoor championship meet in March, and then his outdoor season seemed like a false start when he strained his left hamstring in April. Second-guessing himself about his decision? Nope.

"I leave the past where it's supposed to be — in the past," he said.

Instead, he looked ahead. Not to the NCAA meet, which didn't seem all that feasible, but the Olympic Trials. That's where he would re-establish himself, Dix told himself.

"Last year, I was the hot man of 9.93 (in the 100 at the championship meet) and 19.69 (in the 200 at the East Region), and this year I was injured and there's (other) names being thrown out there," he said. "I'm kind of like the forgotten man. All it did was make me even hungrier."

Once he recovered a few weeks ago, Dix and the FSU coaches figured the NCAA could provide the ideal prep for the trials in late June and early July. Despite some rust, he easily won the 200 at the NCAA East Region in 20.10, the best in the NCAA this year and fourth fastest in the world. He also ran a solid third in the 100 in 10.21.

"I think I'm as ready as I'm going to be for the championships," Dix said. "The hamstring's not any issue anymore."

For him, his goals would be a win in the 200 and in the 100 with what would be considered an upset of Richard Thompson (a 9.93 qualifying time) of pre-meet favorite LSU.

"He's supremely confident in his own abilities, but he's a very humble person at the same time, which is something I greatly admire," said senior Rayon Taylor, the defending triple jump champion. "What you'll see from him is his best effort for the team. And I'm excited to watch him run."

But no matter what happens this week and at the trials, Dix will tell you proudly that he has already hit the tape in a big way.

"I've got my degree. That was the big accomplishment of my college career, and I don't think any record I could break could amount to the importance of getting the degree," he said. "It's definitely more special for me to say I'm an FSU graduate (than an All-American), but to be both is something special."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

FSU sprinter Dix excels in classroom, too 06/09/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2008 1:40pm]
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