As a seminary student in the Maple Valley Stake about an hour south of Seattle, Marcus Dickson makes it a point to study his scriptures.
One of his favorite passages is found in Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Based on his recent accomplishments as a distance runner, some might also turn to Matthew 20:16 when chronicling the story of the senior at White River High School soaring to a place among the elite prep milers in the nation.
Marcus Dickson of White River High School set a new record in the mile race at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle on Feb. 26. Dickson’s winning time of 4:07.18 was also a personal best.
Photo by Adam Leahy.
“The last shall be first.”
When the top mile runners from across the U.S. lined up for the start of the Brooks PR Invitational on the campus of the University of Washington last month, no one gave Dickson much of a chance to place among the top 10, let alone win the prestigious race. After all, his personal best of 4:12.8 was the slowest among the entire field. He had also been one of the last runners invited to the annual event.
“I was the last guy in,” Marcus said. “It was an honor just to be here. These are the best guys in the country – if I could just stay with them, I’d be happy.”
Dickson did just that for the first 600 meters, establishing his position and remaining within a few strides of the leaders. As the race progressed, top seed Jacob Burcham of West Virginia appeared on his way to the championship before Dickson began to gain ground.
“With 200 meters left, I realized I had a chance,” Marcus said. “With 75 left, I thought, ‘I could win this.”
With the Seattle crowd at Dempsey Indoor Stadium cheering on the local favorite, the race moved down the final stretch. Burcham held onto a narrow lead, but as both runners approached the tape, Dickson crossed in front by a whisker. He had accomplished the improbable, setting a new meet record of 4:07.18 and breaking his former personal best by five seconds.
“I was astonished that I won,” Marcus said. “All that hard work in the offseason paid off.”
Along with radio, TV and newspaper interviews, one of the aftereffects of the victory had to do with Marcus setting his bar a bit loftier. Initially, he was hoping to run a 4:10 mile by the end of the season.
Dickson, who placed third in the 2A state cross country meet at Pasco last fall, committed to BYU earlier this year.
Photo by Adam Leahy.
“I knew I had to readjust all my goals,” he said.
The remarkable developments at Brooks were reminiscent of another ‘last to first’ scenario that took place earlier in Dickson’s high school running career – this time at the Washington state meet in Tacoma. After finishing 17th out of 17 runners in the mile race in 2009, Dickson won a 2A title in the 1,600 meters last year. He also placed first in the 800.
The upgrade was also evident in cross country where Marcus went from 108th at state as a freshman to third place in Pasco this season.
After graduation, Marcus will continue his winning ways at BYU where he will run track and cross country. He said an adherence to gospel principles has been a benefit in all aspects of his life.
“Living the Word of Wisdom has definitely helped me become a stronger runner,” he said. “I also believe by following and living the church standards I have been blessed in school.”
Marcus serves as second counselor in his priest quorum and will receive his Eagle Scout award soon. He maintains a 3.75 grade point average at White River.
Dickson is captain of his track and field team and second counselor in his ward’s Priest quorum.
Photo by Adam Leahy.
Just as he works to become the best runner he can be, Dickson said he concentrates on “setting an example of what my standards are.” One of his favorite quotes is from Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Think of the long view of life, not just what’s going to happen today or tomorrow. Don’t give up what you most want in life for something you think you want now.”Â
For Marcus, part of that prudent outlook involves preparations for a full-time LDS mission, even though it will mean a two-year hiatus from serious training and competition.
Marcus raced to titles in the 800 and 1,600 meters at the Washington state 2A track meet last May in Tacoma.
Photo by Craig Howard.
“The Lord had done so much for us and to serve two years is something I look forward to,” he said. “A lot of people ask ‘Are you going to be able to run on your Mission?’ That’s not what I’m going out there for and it won’t be on my mind. My goal is to teach people about the happiness and truth that I get to experience every day of my life.”