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Danielle Stokes is hurdling past the competition St. Mary’s High track star and Oakland PALS standout earns a scholarship to Cal State Northridge

By Nathan Fox Daily Planet Correspondent
Tuesday May 14, 2002

St. Mary’s High sprinting and hurdling standout Danielle Stokes has an impressive track resume. Literally. She has it available by fax. 

Stokes’ “Track and Field Resume” chronicles the 17-year-old’s already remarkable track career: 

1996 Oakland PALS: Runner of the year. 

1998 Youth National Intermediate Girls 100-meter hurdles: Champion. 

1999 ACCAL 100-meter hurdles: Champion. 

2000 ACCAL 100-meter hurdles, 2001 BSAL 100-meter hurdles, 2001 BSAL 300-meter hurdles: Champion. Champion. Champion. 

And so forth. It goes on for a while. 

The purpose of the resume is not to brag. Created at the recommendation of Officer Margaret Dixon, head coach of the PALS track team and Stokes’ mentor since she first joined the PALS at age nine, the resume is intended to help focus her budding track career.  

The stated objective? 

“To attend California State University at Northridge… and continue to compete at an elite level in track and field.” 

Objective accomplished – with a partial scholarship to boot. Stokes will attend CSU Northridge in the fall, where she intends to study kinesiology; the study of the body in movement. It couldn’t be more fitting for someone so adept at moving her own. 

“I know I want to do something related to track or athletic training,” says Stokes. “I’ve always had a passion for that.” 

A lifelong passion – but along the way there have been coaches stoking Stokes’ fire. It’s especially hard to overstate the impact that a program like PALS can have on a young athlete. Officer Dixon, along with PALS hurdling coach Maurice Valentine of the San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s office, have been a guiding light in not only Stokes’ athletic career but also her life. 

“As young ladies get older,” says Dixon, “It’s harder to keep them in athletic programs because of peer pressure. Other kids are going to movies and dating – track becomes unattractive. It’s hard to keep them motivated.” 

Indeed, Dixon says that it has been a battle to keep even someone as talented as Stokes involved. She speaks of an annual ritual wherein Stokes would quit, yet again, and Dixon would coax her back. 

“I’d almost have to trick her every year,” says Dixon. “I’d tell her that I really needed her help with the little kids. ‘Danielle, if you’d just come back and lead the exercises for me,’ I’d tell her. But once I had her on the track I knew I had her.” 

The commitment to give back to the program is something Dixon instilled in Stokes, as she does with all her athletes, from the very beginning. 

“My one requirement is that you come back and give,” says Dixon. “Come back and give to the program, the way we gave to you.” 

Stokes is more than happy to comply. At the end of every track season Stokes is right back out alongside Dixon, coaching kids – now including Stokes’ 9- and 10-year-old cousins, who are just being introduced to the sport. 

“She’s a social butterfly,” says Stokes’ mother, Sandra. “She gets out at track meets and gets to socialize… it’s had a big impact on who she is and what she is. Track is Danielle’s life basically. It has opened her eyes – and opened her horizons.” 

Next on Danielle’s horizon is the Junior National Championships. 

“I’m hoping to compete in Junior Nationals,” says Danielle, “and hoping to make the Junior World team and go to Jamaica. But I’ll have to make a certain mark to go. I’d have to be in the top three at Junior Nationals.” 

Stokes estimates that it would take something on the order of 13.6 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles in order to crack the top three. Her lifetime best: 14.28 seconds at the Stanford Invitational, with a wind-aided 14.13 seconds at the 2002 Meet of Champions in Sacramento two weeks ago. 

How hard is it to shave half a second off of an already blistering 100-meter pace? At an elite level of track and field, half a second can be the difference between first place and last – the difference between Jamaica and Manteca. 

But for a 17-year old prodigy peeling hundredths of a second off of her own best times on a regular basis, anything can happen. 

“It’s doable,” says Stokes. 

Just like the CSU Northridge goal was doable. Looks like it’s time to update that objective – Danielle Stokes has new hurdles to overcome.