It was spring 2009 and track coach Jared Beers ’01 got some exciting news from an unlikely source.
Former Colby track coach Jim Wescott called to say he’d heard from his aunt that a track athlete named Dominique Kone (pronounced Coney) from Bucksport, Maine, was coming to Colby. Beers knew of Kone, state champion in the 100-meter sprint, clocking a 10.99.
But other than sending a general letter (which got no response), the coach hadn’t recruited Kone, who also played basketball. Until Wescott’s phone call, Beers had no idea Kone was interested in Colby.
“I called him a dozen times before he ever called me back,” Beers said. “I was just making sure he wanted to do track. He was making me sweat.”
And it wouldn’t be the last time.
Beers’s fingers were crossed as Kone ’13 made the basketball team freshman year. And again, after the season ended, when he said his body was too tired to run. “I told him to take a couple of weeks off and think about it,” Beers said.
Kone did. Then he came out for indoor track for the first time ever and won the NESCAC championship in the 100-meter. He gave up basketball as a sophomore, ran indoor track again, and qualified for nationals in the 55-meter run. At the national DIII meet, Kone ran the fastest time in the country, but then he injured his hamstring tendon in the finals. This year he came back from the devastating injury as a junior to win the national championship in the 60-meter run indoors. Two months later Kone won the national championship in the 100-meter with a time of 10.24, an Olympic-qualifier time.
Not bad for a walk-on.
“One of the greatest things about coaching at Colby—or frustrating things—is that you can work your butt off, and we do, to find those people,” Beers said. “But every couple of years somebody just shows up.”
Almost never is it somebody like Kone, who, after his dominating win in the 100-meter championship, seriously considered his coaches’ suggestion that they find another national meet for him to qualify for the Olympic trials. “For somebody who’s a Division III runner to even be talking about that is really exciting,” said assistant track coach Emily Hackert, a former Bowdoin runner who worked with Kone last season.
In the end, Kone decided to stick with his plan and take an internship in environmental science instead. He’d done the math: he had run the 16th-fastest college time in the 100-meter. Thirty-six sprinters would make the Olympic trials and that included the nation’s top professionals. It wasn’t worth the risk, Kone said in an e-mail from his research post in Virginia. Said Beers, “I think he made the right choice.”
Kone is in Virginia all summer, studying parasites in wild mice. (He hopes it’s one of the steps to becoming a field biologist.) His academics are very important to him, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed. “It’s great that he’s fast,” Beers said, “but he gets more respect from his teammates for how hard he works in the classroom and the library.”
And yes, he’s fast. But he hopes to get faster.
Hackert said preparation for Kone’s senior year will emphasize work in the weight room and building speed endurance on the track. “The number-one priority is keeping him healthy,” she said.
Kone, in the mountains in Virginia, said he’s already working out, following his coaches’ training plan. As soon as the season was over, according to Hackert, Kone said, “Okay. It’s time to get ready for next year.”
Said Beers, “Emily and I both think that he can absolutely run faster. There’s enough to work on.”