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Matana reads and farms and runs

Matana Dalton runs past a row of blackberry vines on the family farm on Sugarloaf Mountain. Matana Dalton runs past a row of blackberry vines on the family farm on Sugarloaf Mountain.

EDNEYVILLE — Matana runs. Matana runs fast. Matana runs faster than the other girls.


Matana (pronounced MaTAINa) is a word of Hebrew origin meaning gift. Her mom and dad, Genee and Steve Dalton, welcomed her into the world as a gift because it took them so long to conceive and have a child. She helps around her dad's blackberry farm. And she runs.
"I started when I was 8 years old and I just decided I wanted to go with him, and I ran three miles the first time," she said in an interview on the family farm on top of Sugarloaf Mountain. She was talking about her dad, who had taken up running out of necessity.
GeneeMatanaSteveDalton copyGenee, Matana and Steve Dalton on the farm."I was working in manufacturing in leadership," he said. "And my manager told me you need to do something for stress relief. So I started running for stress relief. You can tell — I'm 6-6 280 pounds. I'm not your typical running body. I was doing it mainly for stress relief. Once she started and I could see she was pretty good at this we started trying to get a little bit more competitive."
They entered a variety of races. They've run 5Ks and 10Ks. Matana ran a half-marathon this year. In April, Dalton and Matana, who was then 13, ran in the popular Cooper River Race, which follows a sweeping high bridge in Charleston, S.C. It's like a mountain itself, something Matana is used to.
"Normally she runs with me" from start to finish, Dalton said. But the daughter has surpassed the dad in stamina and speed. "This is the first race that I felt like she was old enough to go on. She's reached a pace faster than I can go. She ran with me for a little bit and then I told her if you feel comfortable go ahead and go for it. So she broke loose. After a few hundred yards she took off and didn't look back."
She finished fifth in her age group, which had about 500 runners.
She says she won't look back next year, either. Race organizers invited her back to Cooper River.
"They called us last week and told us they want to put her up front next year because she placed so good as a 13-year-old," Dalton said.
Now 14, Matana will remain in the 13-14 age bracket. She'd like to win.
Right now is the off-season for running. Matana, who is home-schooled, is counted on to help on the farm. She would like to be an agriculture scientist of some kind. One of her duties is to track pests on the blackberry vines and keep records.
MatanaDalton1Matana Dalton, who is home schooled, is also a serious student aside from being a devoted runner."Last year she placed at a reading level above the 12th grade," Genee said. "She was well above the 98th percentile in all her subjects. She's very much an auditory learner. When we did the public school that was the downfall for her. She said, 'Mama, why do I have to set there and hear it six times when I got it the first time?'" We can tell her something and she doesn't forget it. It's her gift. She's our walking list if we need something."
Besides running and farm work, Matana enjoys reading. She prefers nonfiction.
"I don't want to read anything I'm not going to learn anything from," she said. "I want something that applies to the real world, not something that applies to a fantasy."