Usually it’s the coach who turns blue in the face trying to get their message across to the athlete.
But in an instance when the roles were reversed, former Burlingame High track and field coach Matt Vaughn learned everything he needed to know about one of his rising stars.
Allison Daley made her first big impression as a freshman when she showed up for a non-league meet at Serra early in the 2008 season after playing club soccer all day.
“I knew she was tired and I knew she was fatigued, but when she came around that backstretch she was fighting like nobody’s business, and when I went to see her after she crossed the finish line she was blue around her lips from lack of oxygen,” Vaughn said.
“I’ve never had an athlete who was willing to put themselves through that kind of pain to be successful.”
According to her coaches, the dogged determination Daley showed that day is as much a part of the two-sport star’s legacy as is the list of personal accomplishments that reads like a short novel.
Daley concluded her distinguished Burlingame career last week when she vaulted her last hurdle at the state meet at Veteran’s Memorial Field in Clovis.
“She’s one of the most mentally tough athletes I’ve ever seen,” current Burlingame coach Megan Fish said. “She’ll just work through anything, whatever you ask of her, and she’ll always do it with a smile on her face.”
Daley has had a lot to smile about.
She’s a two-time state qualifier in the 300-meter hurdles, and made the Central Coast Section finals in that race all four years.
Daley set the school record in the 400 hurdles this year (65.50 seconds) and 300 hurdles (44.81) last season. As a sophomore she set a school record in the triple jump (35 feet) and was a member of the Panthers’ school record 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.
She helped lead Burlingame to Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division and CCS Division II soccer titles her freshman and sophomore years (the Panthers were 44-1-5 over that stretch).
She was a three-time All-PAL Bay first-team selection, a three-time San Mateo County Times all-county selection, and was named the league’s midfielder of the year this year.
She was named the school’s female athlete of the year three times, and was an Honor Roll student all four years.
She also played varsity doubles in tennis her freshman year.
“I am a little sad, but I had a successful run, so I’m proud of my accomplishments,” she said.
Daley’s accomplishments put her in select company, longtime Burlingame girls soccer coach Phillip De Rosa said.
“(She’s) one of the all-time top female athletes to come out of Burlingame for as long as I’ve been at that school, and I’ve been teaching at that school for 40 years now,” De Rosa said.
Daley in the fall will attend Bucknell, a private liberal arts college in central Pennsylvania. The school fields a Division I track team, but she said she’s leaning towards competing on the club circuit.
She said competing year-round throughout her school career got to be too much sometimes, and she’s ready for a break. Daley plans to major in business, and wants to pursue a career promoting sustainability.
“(Sports) really do take up a lot of your time and that really has been my focus in high school,” she said.
“It’s time I try something new.”
But she’s keeping her options open, and is especially intrigued by the 400 hurdles, an event she excelled in at the Stanford meet earlier this year, placing third against elite runners from the high school and college ranks.
“I did pass a few people down that last stretch,” she said. “I think it’s just a testament to your stamina and your strength. A lot of girls can go that 300-meter distance, but when you have to tack on that extra 100 and two more hurdles it’s a little more challenging.”
Daley also prides herself for helping teammates meet tough challenges.
“I know that for me as a freshman playing on the varsity team, the way those upperclassmen treated me with so much respect, with so much equality really helped me. So I’ve always gone out of my way to treat the underclassmen that way,” she said. “That’s what pushed me to mentor the younger kids.”
Vaughn admits the site of Daley blue in the face at the Serra meet gave him a scare.
“A little bit,” he said. “I wasn’t sure whether to tell her to back off or what the deal was, but I don’t know if I had told her to back off if she would have."
“When she gets into that situation that’s what she does, she just competes," Vaughn said. "That’s part of what it takes to succeed. Not the whole thing, but if you want to be a champion you’ve got to be able to push yourself, maybe more than you think you can push yourself.”