Nationals Watch: Mary Bonner Dalton Has Sights On The 5K

* Mary Bonner Dalton set a new personal record of 10:30 in the 3,200m this outdoor season

Photo Credit: Dan Loughlin/MileSplit

By Brett Haffner - MileSplit Correspondent

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    While the 5,000m is a seldom run event in high school track and field, it's a storied event with unique history. 

    Recently, for instance, Flower Mound's (TX) Natalie Cook produced a new national high school record in 15:25, while Newbury Park's (CA) Lex Young ran an all-time No. 2 effort of 13:43. Both of those efforts came in events outside the typical high school season. 

    Which brings us to Mary Bonner Dalton of Charlotte Myers Park High School. 

    This March, she brought home the victory in the 5K at adidas Track Nationals, running 17:02 in her debut at the distance. It was a U.S. No. 5 time to end the indoor season. 




    What better way to follow that up? This weekend, she will be back at adidas Outdoor Nationals and will once again try the 5,000m distance. 

    "I had never done the 5K before on that level and I wanted to try something new," Dalton said recently. "I really like the distance events, so I wanted to try and see how it would go."

    After giving the mile and 2-mile double at New Balance Nationals Indoor a go, you could see on paper that Dalton was already a solid talent, capable of achieving well on the national stage.

    She's even proven herself worthy on the cross county course as well, as she placed seventh at the NCHSAA State Championship, along with placing 17th at the Eastbay South Regional, where she ran an impressive 17:44 5K PR in the latter of the two meets.

    However, it was that performance over 5,000m that truly solidified Dalton as a force to be reckoned with, as she's only a sophomore with a lot of room to grow.

    "I didn't expect that time to come or to win, either," Dalton said. "I was very, very happy with it and it gave me a lot more confidence for the rest of the season."

    With all of that momentum, it was looking like Dalton would continue to impress and improve on her already-successful 2022 campaign.

    * The 5K national championship at adidas Track Nationals in March

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    However, things weren't picture-perfect, as a bout with Peroneal tendonitis proved to be a tough setback this outdoor season for Dalton-- she ultimately finished eighth in her state meet in the 3,200m, an event that she was the reigning Class 4A state champion in.

    While this performance wasn't an indicator of her true ability at that time, she endured through the crux of that pain.

    "At conference and regionals, running [it] didn't feel good and I didn't feel the same when I was running," Dalton said. "I just didn't feel as prepared for that big of a race at state."

    But even with a disappointing performance at the state meet, Dalton's resilience and maturity is marked clearly by her recognition that she has two more years to find success. 

    Ultimately, she has time to enjoy herself as a high school runner.

    "It's been tough knowing that a big race like nationals is coming up, but I know I can trust my training, and that cross-training is helping me a lot," Dalton said. "It's only my sophomore season, and knowing that I have two more years to get better helps lighten the pressure and allows me to step back and enjoy the sport even more."

    Some of that cross-training even includes swimming, as Dalton is a year-round competitive swimmer. She's had to manage doing both, sprinkling in full-time amounts of training.

    "Even though I sometimes have to pick and choose what practices to go to, I'd still choose running because it's become my favorite," Dalton said. "It's great that I can use swimming as a great way to cross-train through this injury and always be boosting my endurance all year round, too."

    Having made some adjustments to get her back to full health, Dalton is now back running and raring to go. She says she's not letting the results or expectations of her past performances weigh down on her.

    "I want to run an honest race and do my best," Dalton said. "I'd like to get All-American, have a positive mindset and have a positive attitude."

    It helps that this year's edition of adidas Outdoor Nationals will be held in Greensboro, North Carolina, a familiar venue for Dalton. She says she's competed against many fellow North Carolina runners at the venue -- a handful of which have become her friends.

    "It's so nice to see other North Carolina runners at these big meets and cheering each other all on," Dalton said. "Being with the other girls, warming up, cooling down, doing drills together, it's been so great to have such a great group of supportive people at these big meets."

    That sense of familiarity should play into Dalton's favor, with things certainly looking upward heading into this weekend's adidas Outdoor Nationals-- both from a physical standpoint, as well as a mental standpoint.