Carrying the potential to be the best sprinter in Delaware history is hard work. Maiya Dendy doesn’t treat it like a job.
The Padua Academy sophomore from Middletown has already set every state high school sprinting record, dedicates herself to excelling on a greater stage, and has been the center of a rejuvenated Panda team that has dominated the state in both of her years there.
“Track is not going to be fun if you don’t make it fun,” Dendy said. “Track can be time-consuming. Even when you’re down and not doing your best, think of something fun.”
This year, she obliterated the records of celebrated predecessors in all three sprints and won the Bill Thomson Award as the state’s outstanding female runner. She also was named the state’s Gatorade female outdoor track athlete of the year.
In April, Dendy ran 200 meters in 23.96 seconds, breaking the record set in 1998 by Delcastle’s Rhondale Jones, who was a 16-time overall NCAA champion at Lincoln University.
At the New Castle County championship meet in May, Dendy broke the 100-meter mark set more than a decade ago by Christiana’s Danielle Bailey, who excelled at Seton Hall, and Glasgow’s Kamilah Salaam, an all-ACC runner at Florida State. A week later, she lowered the mark to 11.68, three-tenths of a second faster than any previous in-season performance.
At the Meet of Champions, Dendy bettered the 400-meter record of Delcastle’s Celina Emerson, a three-time All-American entering her senior year at University of Connecticut, by a half-second, at 54.37.
She swept the indoor and outdoor state championships in all three events, and anchored the state championship 4×400 relay behind Jacki D’Amico, Haley Lucey and Angie Spadaccini.
By age 7, Dendy was clearly more than just the fastest girl on the playground. Track has been a part of her life since. She recognizes not only the effort she puts in, but also that of her teammates.
“We work hard and we’re friends,” said Dendy, who is as ebullient about her teammates as she is modest about herself. “We know when we’re tired. We really want it together.”
Dendy’s lissome pace is the result of nine months of unrelenting conditioning. The cycle begins in November with lifting and hill work.
A sprinter’s start, like a golfer’s swing, defines her potential for success. The proper technique for a racer’s launch requires repetitive rehearsals, like a musician’s. “Practice is a lot of core work and repetitive starts every day, getting used to starting correctly,” Dendy said.
Her competitiveness is self-directed, a useful trait for someone who almost never sees her competition. “I don’t really think about other people in my race,” she said. “Sometimes I just think of me and the clock. I think about my goals for the day. Sometimes it’s not about winning, it’s about time.”
Like other elite runners, she looks beyond Delaware, timing her peak for the early summer and national competitions like the New Balance Nationals earlier this month in Greensboro, N.C. – where she finished eighth in the 400 meters in 55.09 – and the USATF Junior Nationals last weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, and the USATF Youth Nationals this weekend in Edwardsville, Ill.
“You don’t want to get all your records in one day in the middle of the season. You don’t know how you’re going to be at the end of the season,” she said.
“I strategize. I want to be in the right position” for when she runs against nation’s best. “I want to go all out on certain days because I want to get an idea of what it’s going to be like.”