Track star Drexel Lawson of North Dakota School for the Deaf remembered for dominant performances

Lawson, who died Sunday in his home in California at 66, was the second North Dakotan to ever win four open events at the North Dakota state track meet.

Drexel Lawson runs for the North Dakota School for the Deaf.
Submitted photo.

GRAND FORKS — Track and field coach Denny Dinius came to Langdon in the mid-1970s and quickly realized North Dakota's main attraction.

"Everyone in the state knew who Drexel Lawson was," Dinius said. "When we went to meets, he was the one people watched. When he ran, it was who was taking second."

North Dakota School for the Deaf sprinter Drexel Lawson, who died Sunday at his home in California at the age of 66, is remembered as one of North Dakota's all-time prep greats.

Lawson became only the second North Dakota athlete to win four open events at the Class B state track meet when, in 1975 in Minot, he captured the 100, 220, 440 and 180 hurdles.

He set state records in the 220 and 440. Those records still stand as both events are now retired.


In 1974, Lawson's dominance led North Dakota School for the Deaf to the Class B state championship. Lawson won the 100, 220 and 440 while taking second in the 180-yard low hurdles.

A motorcycle accident one week before the state meet his senior year of high school prevented Lawson from competing at the state meet in 1976. Dinius remembers track fans' disappointment in not getting to see Lawson compete in 1976.

Dinius had an athlete at Langdon (a Class A school at the time), Phil Farris, who competed in tight races with Lawson. Farris would go on to play college football at the University of North Carolina. Farris would win four events at the 1976 North Dakota state meet.

"Those two were on a collision course," Dinius said.

Lawson was also a standout basketball player for NDSD earning all-district honors as a junior and senior. He surpassed 1,000 career points and rebounds, according to NDSD coach Henry Brenner.

"Drexel was a very gregarious kid," Brenner said. "He came to NDSD when he was 10 years old. He started school in Tennessee, then his father was transferred to Minot Air Base. He always had a lot of friends and got along well with all of his classmates."

Lawson won the 100 in the 1975 Pan Am Games for the Deaf. At the 1977 World Games for the Deaf, he was gold medalist in the 400 intermediate hurdles, ran a leg on the winning 1,600 relay team and won silver medals in the 200 and 400 in Bucharest, Romania.

On Jan. 26, 1976, Lawson appeared in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd.


"Lawson won the 100-meter dash in 10.7 at the Pan American Games for the Deaf in Maracaibo, Venezuela. In 1975, Lawson was unbeaten in sprints and was his state's High School Athlete of the Year," Sports Illustrated said.

In 2000, Lawson was honored by the Grand Forks Herald, which named the Top 100 athletes for 100 years in the area.

Lawson, who competed in college at the College of Southern Idaho, worked as a mechanic at a golf course in California after his track career.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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