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BG Falcon Media

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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Dawley’s death came too soon

The following excerpts are from A.E. Housman’s 1896 poem, “To an Athlete Dying Young.”

“The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.”

Leslie Ann Dawley came to Bowling Green to play soccer. She came to learn about life, about how to become an adult. Far more still a child, not three months into her college career, she collapsed onto the grass at Cochrane Field during a Mid-American Conference tournament game last week and died later in the day.

“To-day, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.”

It is unfair, somehow. Much as we train ourselves to accept the fact that death is part of life, this was just a young woman. A young woman, full of life, full of potential. The logical path of life says a child, maybe approaching middle age with flecks of gray hair and family of their own, they are the ones who mourn their parents’ passing. But life is very often illogical. Now her parents, quite possibly approaching middle age, outlive their own child and must mourn her passing. It all just seems … unfair.

“Smart lad, to slip bedtimes away

From fields where glory does not stay

And early through the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.”

The soccer field. Leslie’s playground. The place where she was good enough to play at a Division I college. The place where her life is probably best remembered, at least for those of us who didn’t know her personally. Her teammates somehow choked back their tears and won their suspended game in double-overtime the next day on a penalty kick. It was their first-ever postseason win at home. Here’s looking at you, Leslie…

“Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut,

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

After earth has stopped the tears.”

Away she steals, Leslie. No more cheers, but rest. And no one can hurt her. The sprains of soccer, the pains of life. Her buffer is eternity. Larger than we can yet get our finite human minds to grasp.

“Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.”

This is the last image we have of Leslie Dawley — running, living, dribbling a soccer ball. Young and vibrant. No chance for the years to take their toll. She is our loss, but somewhere — somewhere, she runs faster than she ever has before. And she sees everything. Everything she’s always wanted to see.

“So set, before its echoes fade,

The fleet-foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to the low lintel up

The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead

And find unwithered on its curls

The garland briefer than a girl’s.”

In time, the pain will fade. This season will turn over into the next, and the next. Soon, many days will stand between us and a terrible day in November when a life ended way too soon. Her teammates will graduate, and take their memories of her with them to all corners of the country. But Leslie Dawley is forever linked to Bowling Green, and her memory must not die here. She died here. She will never leave. And she can never leave the collective heart of this campus.

Rest in peace, Leslie.

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