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Sycamore sophomore finds second gear in short sprints

There isn’t much time to implement strategy in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, but Sycamore sophomore Dion Hooker has figured out how to maximize his talent in the two shortest races on the track.

Hooker, who finished ninth in Class 2A as a freshman, has discovered that he can glide through the first half of a race, then shift into a second gear. That second gear has become a powerful assest to coach Pete Piccony, and should have Northern Illinois Big 12 runners worried that they’ll be left in his dust as they hit the straightaway of the 200 or the final 50 meters of a 100.

“That’s definitely one of the stronger parts of my running,” Hooker said of his kick. “It’s kind of like a secret weapon, I would say.”

Hooker is bigger, stronger, faster and fitter this year as the Spartans prepare to begin the outdoor season. But he thinks there’s another aspect that has helped him take a leap from last season.

“In track, I think a lot of it is the mental part of it,” Hooker said. “Just staying focused and staying on task and to know what you’re doing and to be smart about your races.”

After medalling in the 100, which has never been his best event, last season, Hooker is already showing he has much more in store for the 2013 season.

At Saturday’s Prep Top Times meet at Illinois Wesleyan University, Hooker took fourth place in the 200 and fifth in the 60 meters, which is run indoors in lieu of the 100.

Piccony thinks Hooker’s secret weapon has been the key to his success.

“If you watch him, the last 100 to 80 meters, a second gear gets kicked in, and it’s fluid, it’s smooth, it’s a nice transition, he just takes off and goes,” he said. “It’s fun to watch.”

Last season, Hooker hardly ran the 200 meters, which he said had always been his best event. Instead, he was a key member of Sycamore’s 4x400-meter relay team.

This year, he’ll run the 200, and maybe even the 400 at some meets. After he was content to just make the finals at the state meet last year, he expects to medal in multiple events this season.

“I was so happy that I made it [to finals] that I wasn’t really focusing on doing well,” Hooker said. “Just knowing that I’ve had the experience, I know that I can make the finals and do work this time, not just hope to make it to the finals.”

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