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Liberty’s Jessica Dunnigan, right, runs in the girls’ Division II 200-meter dash at the New York State Track and Field championships on June 12 at Vestal High School. Dunnigan won the race in 26 seconds to earn a gold medal and the first state outdoor track title in Liberty Central School history.

Liberty’s Jessica Dunnigan brings home the gold

By Laura Stabbert
VESTAL — June 22, 2010 — Though it wasn’t her best performance of the year, Jessica Dunnigan of Liberty won the Division II 200-meter dash at the New York State track and field championships on June 12, earning the first state outdoor track title for Liberty Central School.
“It was one of the best moments of my life. I wanted it so bad and I finally got it, but I didn’t expect to win,” said Dunnigan, a junior at Liberty Central High School.
Dunnigan explained that while she is a strong contender in the 100-meter dash (where she placed fourth in the state meet), the 200 is her best race.
“I need that extra length, and right off the curve I go all out,” she said.
An interesting twist of fate came late in the race for Dunnigan, who seemed bound for silver. With less than 10 meters left Dunnigan trailed top-seeded Emily Woodford of Oxford, who then stumbled and fell. Dunnigan sprinted past her and won gold.
Liberty Coach Ralph Bressler noted that Woodford, in a published interview, said she was trying to lean forward to gain any edge – meaning she was aware that Dunnigan was within striking distance.
“Jessica thought [Woodford] had the race, but she was coming on strong,” Bressler said. “In my opinion, at that [point], Jessica was accelerating and had a chance to catch up.”
Bressler added that Dunnigan now holds the school record in the 100, 200, long jump and triple jump.
Asked if winning a state title was a goal she always had, Dunnigan responded, “Not when I went [to the state meet]. I just wanted to get on the [medal] podium.”
The top six finishers score team points and garner medals.
Dunnigan’s best time in the 200 this year was 25.4 seconds, but 26.00 seconds was good enough for her gold.
“Mrs. [Debbie] Simpson helped me a lot, she spent extra time with me after practice and helped me with my workouts on weekends,” Dunnigan said.
Bressler also praised the technical knowledge Simpson brought to Liberty’s staff.
“She coached the jumps and was a big help with the sprints,” he said.

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