When the Lake Braddock girls track team won the Northern Region Championship in 1986, the lone senior was out with a mono diagnosis. Many wondered if Cathron Birge would be able to run in the following week's state championship.
"She still managed to win the 400m [state title] and she anchored the 4x400m relay," said Bob Digby, who spent 20 years, 1985-2005, coaching track at Lake Braddock.
Digby said Birge, a high school All-American, was a very team-oriented runner. "She liked the relays more than the individual races, because she could make those around her better," said Digby. He added that Birge was a leader in many ways, and that he often saw her helping out the younger team members.
"Cathron Birge is the most talented female track athlete to ever come from this area," said Digby.
BIRGE SAID SHE started running track during her freshman year at Lake Braddock. She said she ran in the seventh and eighth grade track meets at the school, but those only happened once a year. "I liked the people and I was a fast runner, so it was natural for me to run track," said Birge. Also, she said, she joined the track team in the winter so she can stay in shape for soccer. In her sentiments, Birge reflects the team-oriented competitor that others talk about.
"My favorite memory is the first time we won the state track meet as a team," said Birge. "I had won state titles before, but this one was so special because it was a team title." The title Birge is referring to is the 1985 indoor track state title. The Bruins would repeat that title in 1986 and 1987. They would also take the outdoor state title in 1985 and 1986, when they earned 94 points to set the record for most team points in a state meet.
"I did better myself knowing I was doing something for the team," said Birge, adding that she loved to run relays because she was a part of a four-person team.
HER TWO-YEARS-younger brother, Morgan Birge, said he was dragged to every meet his sister performed in, until he started competing for the Bruins. "She was a great finisher," said Morgan Birge. "She was tall and strong, and she could outlast the other runners." Morgan Birge said he modeled his running to his sister's when he ran the 800m races for the Bruins.
Until recently, Morgan Birge spent eight years as an assistant coach at Lake Braddock. He said his sister's accomplishments seemed normal when the two were growing up, but when he became a coach he realized how much she had actually done. "Her school records haven't even been approached," said Morgan Birge. He said Cathron Birge worked really hard to be a top athlete and she really loved the sport. He added that she also made sacrifices for the team, running in events that were not her forte to earn the necessary points.
DIGBY SAID THE Lake Braddock teams he coached until recently still talked about Cathron Birge as an inspiration to do well. "Her name is synonymous with Lake Braddock track," added Digby.
Birge won the indoor track 500m dash state title four times, every year she competed, 1983-1987. Individually, Birge also won the 300m dash indoor state title in 1985. She won the outdoor track 400m title her sophomore, junior and senior years, along with a number of relay titles. The last event of the 1986 state meet was the 1600m relay in which Birge ran the anchor leg. Along with her teammates Caroline McCormick, Angela Griffith and Adria Hicks, the lone senior, who ran despite being sick, Birge, set the new record for the event, running it in 3:48.67.
To be added to her many state accolades, Birge also holds the Northern Region record for the girls 400m dash, which she ran in 55.15 on May 20, 1985.
AFTER HIGH school, Birge went on to compete at the University of Virginia, where she ran track all four years. She said that the runners were more individually-oriented at the college level, which had an impact on the team-oriented former Bruin. "I never felt it was quite as much of a team environment," she said. From her time at UVA, Birge and three teammates still hold the 4x400m relay school record. They ran the relay in 3:39.31 on Feb. 21, 1987.
Birge has since become Cathron Donaldson. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, where she works as a pediatrics physical therapist.
Don't Forget About: Dana Boone
Dana Boone graduated from Lake Braddock in 1987, a year after Cathron Birge did. In her four years at Lake Braddock, Boone won numerous championships, including five individual state champions and one relay state championship.
In 1985, Boone won her first state title in long jump, jumping 19'8". She repeated the long jump title in 1987, when she jumped 19'0.5". In 1987, Boone won her last state title, when she set the existing triple jump record, clearing 42'9.5".
However, her best year at the state meet was her junior year, 1986, when she won three state titles. She jumped 39'6" to win the triple jump, then she ran 100m hurdles in 14.57 before helping the 400m relay finish in 47.90. The Bruins took the team state title that year as well.
A May 29, 1986, Burke Connection article reads that Boone finished second in long jump, an event she won the year before, prior to collecting the other state trophies. Lake Braddock assistant coach Pete Bendorf was quoted as saying: "Dana jumped great on Friday and got beat. Some kids would have given up after that, but Dana came back to win three events. That just shows you what kind of kids we have to work with."
Bob Digby said Boone and Birge were a great one-two punch, and others on the team performed well in order not to let them down.
"[Boone] was a phenomenal athlete, not only could she jump far but she was also a very fast runner," said Birge. She added that Boone was also a really fun person to be around away from the track.
After high school, Boone ended up at the University of Virginia, where she won six ACC titles and was a six time All-America honoree. She holds UVA's records in a number of events, including the triple jump.
Boone recently began working as an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma. This employment follows a chain of coaching positions at other major universities, including Louisiana State University and University of Texas.
- All American in 400m, 1984
- USA Junior National Track Team in 4x400m, 1985
- TAC Junior Nationals, 400m, 7th in 1984 and 3rd in 1985
- Girls Eastern States Indoor Meet at Harvard, 600 yards Champion, 1984 and 1985
- 13 Northern District Individual and Relay titles
- 11 Northern Region Individual titles
- 11 Virginia State Individual and Relay titles
Cathron Birge is 63 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.