Dom Kone ’13 is the national NCAA D-III champion in the 60- and 100-meter dash. He was interviewed by email by Colby editor Gerry Boyle. Kone was asked about his remarkable track career and his goals: to run faster and become a field biologist.
What sort of research are you doing for your internship and where?
I’m doing parasite community research in two species of wild mice. I’m basically looking at the effects of a parasitic treatment and how that changes the structure of the parasite communities within the mice. It’s at the Mountain Lake Biological Station in Pembroke, VA (in the mountains).
Are you hoping for an environmental studies-related career? (Are you an ES major or bio?)
I am an ES major with a concentration in conservation biology. I do hope to have an ES-related career. I hope to go into wildlife biology and animal behavior, and I would like to study the behaviors of a variety of different species. Maybe even work for National Geographic or World Wildlfe Fund.
What have been the highlights of your academic career at Colby?
Well there isn’t really one particular moment, but I think when I finally realized that I’m more interested in the environmental sciences (at the time I was a biology major.) When I did realize what I really was passionate about, I was able to make the switch to environmental studies and start taking classes that best suited my interests—and will hopefully reach my goal of becoming a wildlife biologist. I also enjoy being with other students and faculty within the ES Department who share the same interests.
I talked to coach Beers for this story. I didn't realize that you were essentially a walk-on for track. Was there a possibility that you wouldn't have gone out for the team?
Yes, I was pretty much a walk-on. I wasn’t ever really considered an elite track athlete in high school until towards the end of my senior track season, so I guess I kind of flew under everyone’s radar. I guess if Jared hadn’t talked to me over the summer I probably wouldn’t have joined the track team. I didn’t think I was that good and never thought I would even be able to compete in college, let alone be one of the top sprinters. (I was always known for being a better long jumper.)
How helpful is it to work with assistant coach Emily Hackert?
She’s so helpful! She really knows what she’s doing and makes sure that everyone gets the attention that they need during practice, which usually involves her looking exhausted after practice. I think the reason she has been so pivotal in my success this year is that, not only does she know what’s beneficial for sprinters/hurdlers/jumpers, but she gets to know you personally and understands what each athlete needs and the kind of mentality that each person brings to practice and to the meets.
She definitely helped me out a lot this year with staying focused for both indoor and outdoor seasons. She realized that I like to be calm before my meets, and she was very good at making sure that I was confident and relaxed. I think the best thing that she said to me right at the beginning of the indoor season that stuck with me for both seasons was that I needed to just relax and enjoy being an athlete. She explained to me that I need to be confident in my ability and enjoy having that athletic ability. From that point on I think I found confidence in myself because I was able to realize that I am a good athlete.
The 10.24 was a personal best, right? Why is it you have your best performances in the biggest races?
Yes, 10.24 is my personal best. You know, I really don’t know. Sorry this isn’t the best answer, but I guess when it really counts I’m able to go into another gear and just compete. I think when I’m racing against better competition I definitely rise to the occasion. Which is why my times got a lot faster toward the end of the year, because I was racing faster sprinters.
How have you changed as a sprinter since you've come to Colby? An athlete in general?
I think I’ve changed a lot. I’ve told you about the mental standpoint. From a physical standpoint I’m more in tune with my body and understand what my body needs as an athlete. Plenty of sleep, eating healthy, not trying to outdo myself in practice, and making sure that I’m taking care of my body so that I stay injury-free—all of these things have made me a better athlete in general.
You have another year, two seasons, indoor and outdoor. What's your goal for next year?
First and foremost would be to stay healthy and injury-free. But as far as times are concerned, I don’t think I’ll make any goals for myself, because that’s proven to work against me in the past. I think the ultimate goal is to just have fun these next two seasons and really enjoy the experience and opportunity of having one more year to compete in college.
Coach Beers tells me the team has a first-year sprinter coming in with a lot of potential. Are you looking forward to being a mentor?
Yes, his name is Ethan Druskat. He’s from New Hampshire. He ran a 10.88 the last time I checked his times. I’m really excited to have him on the team because we’ve desperately needed some more sprinters, and the fact that he’s already very talented will only help the team after I leave. Jared, Emily, and I are all very excited because he’ll get to practice and train with me for a year, so that will give him some good experience. But also he’s someone who will be able to push me in practice and in meets. It will be some nice competition for both of us.
Are you training this summer? Mountain sprints?
Yes, right now I’m concentrating on the conditioning plan that Jared prepared for us, and I’m mixing in some lifting with plyometric workouts. Surprisingly, there aren’t any hills I can really run up here, because it’s pretty densely forested. But there is a clear area which is about 150m long, so I can do some sort of bounds and sprints on that area. I think my focus this summer will be on my conditioning.
What did it feel like to win the first national championship? The second?
The first championship was bittersweet. I know I’ve said this multiple times, but it was amazing to be able to come back after my injury in the finals last year and be able to actually win it this year. When I won, at first I couldn’t believe it, and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders because I was finally able to put that injury behind me and start over on a clean slate. I felt even better to win my second one because that was my first trip to the outdoor championships. And to actually win the 100m in my first appearance at the outdoor championships felt just as nice as getting redemption in the 60m dash.
How seriously did you consider looking for a national meet so you could try to qualify for the Olympic trials?
I very seriously considered looking for another qualifying race to compete in. The coaches and I actually started to consider that possibility right after my race. I was very, very tempted to essentially cancel my internship for the summer. But what it came down to was that there were a lot of sprinters who had faster times than I did and they only take 36 competitors for the 100m dash. I checked the list and I believe I was ranked 16th among all college sprinters. Then you have to take into account how many professional sprinters were going to be competing for a spot on the Olympic team. The way I saw it was that I still had one more year to get faster and really put the work in so I could return even faster next season. So while the Olympic trials are out of the question, I may want to make a push for other races next summer after I graduate, when I’m faster and little more physically matured.