With that performance at the 4A Bi-District track and field meet last spring, the proverbial light bulb went off for Dobson, who after a winter of hard work, could be headed towards a breakthrough season as a junior.
"I just didn't expect it, then what do you know? I'm going to state," said Dobson, who competed in the 110-meter hurdles and the long jump at last year's state meet. "That made me realize how much potential I have. It makes me want to go to college for track and field. That can be my ticket somewhere in life."
Through the natural physical maturation that takes place in the year in the life of a teenager, and through a lot of work in the weight room and on the track, Dobson has come into his junior year a vastly improved athlete.
His coaches see a faster, more powerful and more driven competitor, and the early-season results show it.
Competing against a field made up primarily of college athletes, Dobson finished fourth out of 31 competitors in the 60-meter hurdles during last month's UW Open indoor meet, and that was on college height hurdles, which are three inches higher than what high school athletes are accustomed to. At his most recent high school meet, Dobson won the long jump with a solid if not spectacular mark of 20-feet, 3-inches. Cascade coach Chris Crockett points out that Dobson barely scratched on a pair of jumps that went more than 22 feet.
"From last year, it's like a grown man," Crockett said. "He has stepped up and just taken his game to a different level. ... He's been chomping at the bit since football was over, and you can tell by the way that he's running that he's stepped his game up to a college level. You don't see many juniors stepping up like this. He's done it for himself and his future."
Yet even though Dobson has taken his track game to another level, he always has been motivated to do big things. Even when he was 9 years old, Dobson marveled at his mother's passion for life and her big heart, so when Renee Shurn died of a heart attack in 2005, Dobson vowed at a young age that he would make his mom proud.
"That always pushes me, because I always told her I was going to go to college and that I was going to do big things in life," Dobson said. "Not having my mom here really does push me farther. Everything that has happened in my life makes me who I am today."
Dobson's father was never in the picture, he explained. So after his mother passed away, Dobson and his older sister Valyn, now 19, moved in with their aunt, Toni Insalaco. The far-too-modest Insalaco says she didn't always know what to do after taking on two kids unexpectedly, but Dobson, and those who have seen him mature marvel at the job Insalaco has done.
"I'll tell you what, not many kids have an easy life, and this young man, some of the setbacks he's had, not growing up with his parents, most kids they could fall apart, but his aunt has been fantastic," Crockett said. "She's been a great lady."
Insalaco and Crockett are just two people in the support system Dobson credits with helping him get to this point. Cascade assistant Greg Font, who coaches Dobson in jumps, and Kenneth Troy, a coach Dobson works with in the offseason, and many others have all helped shape Dobson the athlete and more importantly, Dobson the person.
"If I have a problem or I don't know what to do, I'll call my sister who has kids or my cousin, because sometimes I'm not sure what the right thing is," Insalaco said. "Or I'll call the coach and say, 'Coach, get over here, I need you now. Kaleb isn't acting the way he should be.' They've all been very helpful, because there's no guy here to help him. I can be father and mother in a way, but you still need a masculine figure sometimes to be a mentor."
Thanks to his own athletic gifts and his work ethic, and thanks to the adults who have formed an impressive support system in his life, Dobson believes he can have a big year in track and field this year, and do even more as a senior in football and track, hopefully enough to earn a Division I scholarship.
So if you're looking for a potential breakout track and field athlete this spring, keep an eye on Kaleb Dobson.
And if you're looking for a good kid who is easy to root for this spring, well, keep an eye on Kaleb Dobson.
"He's a super kid," Insalaco said. "All in all, I'm very proud of him."
"They say the lord works in mysterious ways, and that young man, he's been tested," Crockett said. "But that young man, I'm very proud of him as a coach."
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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