SYCAMORE – Dion Hooker is always finding ways to motivate himself to do better.
Disappointment was one of the motivators he credits with his winning the 200-meter dash (22.23) in the Illinois High School Association Class 2A boys state track meet on May 25. An hour earlier, the Sycamore High School sophomore had placed sixth in the 100-meter dash (10.99), a little lower than he was seeded.
“I wasn’t too happy, so I just used that anger to motivate me,” Hooker said. He is the first SHS athlete to win an individual state track title since 1978.
Last month marked his second trip to state in two years. Last year, as a freshman, Hooker placed ninth in the state meet in both the 100 and as a member of the 4x400-meter relay.
A veritable workhorse this season, Hooker ran the 100, 200, 400, 4x400, 4x100 and 4x200 relays for the Spartans when he wasn’t competing in the long jump.
Besides track, Hooker was a starting running back and cornerback for the Spartans’ varsity football team last season.
“My dad used to play, so I thought I’d give it a try,” he said.
The day before final exams in May, Hooker sat down with MidWeek reporter Doug Oleson to talk about track.
MidWeek: How did you get started in track?
Dion Hooker: I started off in the Huskie Track Club. It was just to do something. Then I tried it again when I was in seventh grade. I liked it, so I kept doing it.
MW: What events did you do?
DH: I’ve always been a sprinter. I mainly started out with the 400 and 200. I just started with the 100 last year.
MW: You did so many events during the season. Who decided what you should focus on in sectionals?
DH: It is mostly the coach’s (Pete Piccony) decision. For conference, they put me in four events just so we could get those points to hopefully try to win the meet. At sectionals, he’ll put me in races that he’s confident I’ll make it to state.
MW: So, during the season, they focus on the team, but near the end, they focus on what you’re going to do best in?
DH: Yes, (the events I have) the most realistic chance of making it to state.
MW: In how many events did you compete in the sectional?
DH: I was in the 100, 200 and 4x400.
MW: Was there a big gap between the two state finals you qualified for?
DH: There should have been, but because of weather conditions, they just ran one event right after the other to speed it up. ...I had some time, but not as much as I should.
MW: Going into state, how were you ranked?
DH: In the 200, I was first and in the 100, I was ranked third. ...It would have been nice to win them both, but I was more confident in the 200 because that’s my better race, I feel. But I had high expectations for the finals in the 100 and I didn’t quite get that.
MW: I know the 100 isn’t a long race, but were you drained – emotionally, if nothing else – for the 200?
DH: After the 100, I didn’t do as well as I was seeded. I wasn’t too happy so I just used that anger to motivate me. ...I guess since I had a good sectional time, my expectations were a little too high.
MW: Did being there last year help you this time?
DH: A little bit, just having the experience of going into it for the second year. I got ninth last year – well, last. I kind of used that as motivation so I could do better than that this year.
MW: Your best times weren’t at the state meet, right?
DH: My best time at state in the 100 was 10.78 in the prelims; in the 200, it was 22.05 in the prelims. My best time in the 100 (for the season) is 10.78; in the 200, it was 21.77 in the sectional.
I like (the idea of) going to state and getting a new P.R., but I wasn’t too broken up that I didn’t get it.
MW: What’s it like to win a state title at 16?
DH: It feels pretty good. Just the fact that I have to keep that up for the next two years and defend my title, it puts a little more pressure on me. It’ll be interesting.
MW: What were the weather conditions?
DH: It was rainy and cold.
MW: What does one do to celebrate a state title?
DH: We didn’t do much, really. We get on the bus and went home. We went to McDonald’s.
MW: Did you at least get to order what you wanted, or are you still in training?
DH: We were supposed to go to a restaurant, but we went over our budget so we had to go somewhere cheap.
MW: What are you going to do this summer?
DH: Mostly just train.