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Boys track and field preview: Sycamore’s Hooker primed to defend 200-meter state title

Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 11:49 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 20, 2014 12:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia)
Sycamore junior sprinter Dion Hooker is in the blocks during practice Monday at Sycamore's field house.

The physical pain and bruises from 100 carries during the football season are finally gone for Dion Hooker.

Coming off a year in which the Sycamore junior transitioned into a role as one of the featured running backs for the Spartans in the fall, Hooker seems primed to continue racking up accolades in a career that already includes a state track title.

“[The physical toll] is kind of similar for track, but it’s more so on your legs,” Hooker said. “Just getting conditioned and getting back into track mode it’s a huge transition.”

As a sophomore last year, Hooker broke through for his first state title, winning the Class 2A title in the 200-meter dash. He also placed sixth in the 100, improving from his ninth-place finish as a freshman.

According to Sycamore coach Pete Piccony, Hooker’s ability to score in multiple events has been crucial in helping the Spartans score points at invitationals.

The 400 and both sprint relays also will be options throughout this season.

“We’re probably going to put him wherever he best helps the team right now. Individual events, we’re going to wait and see where he’s at by midseason,” Piccony said. “The good news about Dion, and the thing any track coach will love, is he’s so versatile.”

While Hooker burst onto the state scene as a freshman, he and Piccony agree that he’s much different heading into his third track season.

Going through Sycamore’s weight-lifting program during the past couple years has allowed Hooker to put on more muscle mass, something that will help with his explosiveness in the sprint events, and also enhance his ability to shed would-be tacklers in football.

In addition, Hooker’s now familiar with the team’s training regimen and meet schedule as an upperclassmen.

“I’m definitely a different person,” Hooker said. “Being experienced and being in my third year, I feel more comfortable and know that I have room for improvement.”

While the exact events Hooker competes in during the postseason are yet to be determined, it’s likely he’ll wind up in the starting blocks in the 200.

And this time around, people will be looking at him as the favorite.

“I feel that I have a target on my back. It’s a good feeling to have knowing that I’m defending something,” Hooker said. “It just gives me a little extra push to know that I have to work harder to maintain that title as a state champion.”

PREP BOYS TRACK AND FIELD PREVIEW CAPSULES

DeKALB

Coach: Tim Holt (38th season)

Key returners: Jonathan Bell, sr., shot put; Dre Brown, jr., sprints; David Long, jr., hurdles; Drew Paszotta, sr., sprints; James Robinson, so., sprints/high jump; Tony Tate, so., long jump; Eriq Torrey, jr., sprints; Misha Ryzhov, sr., distance

Impact newcomers: Chauncie Perkins, jr., sprints

Outlook: Bell is the only returning state qualifier for DeKalb, but a strong junior and sophomore class should seen even more improvement from last year.

Holt’s take: “Everything looks good on paper. We have to run well. We were successful last season and with most of our core individuals back, we should be strong.”

GENOA-KINGSTON

Coach: Brent Bacon (third season)

Key returners: Mitchell Uszcien-ski, sr., jumps; Jonah Callahan, sr., hurdles; Marcus Holley, jr., pole vault

Outlook: G-K posted a number of solid results as a team last year, including defending its championship at the Richmond Relays and taking second place at the Seneca Invite and G-K Invite.

Bacon’s take: “This year’s team has a lot of great talent and great potential which will compensate for the loss of a very heavy-numbered, and talented senior class last year.”

HINCKLEY-BIG ROCK

Coach: Greg Burks (13th season)

Key returners: T.J. Gavin, sr., hurdles/relays; Austin Planthaber, sr., sprints/relays; Sean Gavin, so., throws/relays; Zach McNanna, so., hurdles/high jump/relays

Impact newcomers: Erik Dunteman, sr.; Brandon Jakubiec, sr.; Daryn Ferreira, jr.; Robert Dunlap, fr.; Morgan Grivetti, fr.; H.D. Halstead, fr.; Shawn Jakubiec, fr.; Caleb Lawler, fr.; Corey Maercker, fr.

Outlook: Hinckley-Big Rock lost a talented senior class that included two state qualifiers in Bill Weissinger and Jared Madden. Gavin took sixth in the 110-meter high hurdles at last year’s sectional and could have the best shot to get to state this season.

Burks’ take: “We have a lot of new faces this year. We look forward to getting out on the track and making progress throughout the season.”

INDIAN CREEK

Coach: Dane Bell (10th season)

Key returners: Matt Browder, jr., shot put; Evan Ostrander, so., distance; Eric Sorbel, jr., middle distance; Gavin Eberly, sr., hurdles

Impact newcomers: Jake Dodd, sr., long jump; Mike Armstrong, jr., shot put; Camden Foster, middle distance

Outlook: Indian Creek’s numbers are down this year, so it will be individual performances that stand out most for the Timberwolves as the season progresses. Indian Creek also possesses a lot of newcomers on the team.

Bell’s take: “Overall, the team seems to have a positive attitude and good chemistry so I look forward to a very fun and productive year.”

KANELAND

Coach: Eric Baron (ninth season)

Key returners: Kyle Carter, sr., middle distance; Nathaniel Kucera, sr., middle distance; Luis Acosta, sr., middle distance; Nate Dyer, sr., throws; Shane Jorgensen, sr., throws; Dylan Nauert, sr., hurdles; Brock Robertson, sr., hurdles; Brandon Bishop, sr., sprints; Isaac Swithers, jr., sprints; Ben Barnes, jr., jumps; Dylan Kuipers, sr., pole vault; Dan Evers, sr., pole vault; Ryan Bower, sr., distance

Impact newcomers: Brandon Cruz, so., sprints; Austin Kintz, so., middle distance; Drew Franklin, so, middle distance; Sean Spaetzel, so., middle distance

Outlook: Kaneland will once again have a stacked lineup, returning a lot of key athletes from last year’s conference championship team. The Knights also won a sectional and were sixth in the state in Class 2A.

Baron’s take: “We should contend for the championship of every invite we compete in.”

SYCAMORE

Coach: Pete Piccony (seventh season)

Key returners: Dion Hooker, jr., sprints; Evan Short, sr., throws; Mark Stice, sr., distance; Adam Millburg, jr., distance; Nick Aase, sr., distance; Tanner Yohe, sr., distance; Alex Handel, sr., distance; Logan Wright, sr., jumps.

Outlook: Sycamore’s distance team will be one of its strengths as Millburg and Stice both qualified for the state meet in cross country. Hooker is the defending 2A champion in the 200 and also should help the team score points in the 100, 400 and relays.

Piccony said he expects a number of freshmen to earn spots in the varsity lineup as well.

Piccony’s take: “We try to get as many boys down state as possible. We would like a strong showing at conference and sectionals.”

Ross Jacobson, rjacobson@shawmedia.com

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