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Sarah's passion
Sarah Dalton couldn't stop shaking minutes before the start of the 2008 Stanislaus County Fair Destruction Derby.

"My dad had to latch my helmet for me," she said. "I still get nervous."

On Tuesday, July 20 at the Food Maxx Arena, the 2009 Central Valley Christian Academy graduate fell short of her goal of a top-3 finish.

She was knocked out halfway through the Metal Mayhem powder puff competition.

Her 1973 Dodge Polara overheated. She also had steering problems.

"It's such an adrenaline rush," said Sarah, who finished fourth overall in 2009. "I like the riskiness of it. The contact's intense. The preparation is crazy fun too."

She also enjoys spending time with her dad.

Greg Dalton, 46, placed third in the compact division last week.

"It's definitely fun being a part of it with him," said Sarah, who turns 19 on Aug. 15.

"She's a lady but she can compete with the boys," Greg said.

Local destruction derby enthusiast Greg Mathews introduced the Daltons to the sport.

Mathews coached Sarah in multiple sports in high school.

"I'm extremely competitive," Sarah said. "I've been that way since I was a kid. I'd challenge my sister in everything."

Sarah was a member of the basketball, soccer, softball, gymnastics and girls flag football teams at Central Valley Christian Academy.

"I've broken my hand, nose and ankle," Sarah said. "I'm kind of a daredevil."

Sarah broke her hand while playing football.

"She taped it up and finished the game," Greg Dalton said. "She's been a competitive girl ever since she was born."

Sarah will be a spectator at the 2011 Stanislaus County Fair Destruction Derby.

She has to have surgery on her right knee. The gymnastics-related injury was sustained during her senior year.

Liza Dalton, Sarah's younger sibling, is considering competing for the first time.

The Central Valley Christian Academy junior just got her driver's license.

"I can see her following in her sister's footsteps," Greg Dalton said. "She's very athletic too."

"She's strong-willed," Sarah said.

Liza helped customize Sarah's car this year. She did the lettering.

Sarah will return the favor next summer.

"I'll definitely be giving her tips and watching from the stands," she said.

Sarah will begin her sophomore year at Walla Walla University in Washington after she returns from a five-month student missionary trip. She leaves for Palau, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, on Aug. 1.

"She's a dedicated person," Greg Dalton said.