WATERVILLE, Maine — In seventh grade, Dom Kone was faced with a common decision for kids his age: What sport do I want to play this season?
During his spring season at Bucksport Middle School, Kone was torn between another season of baseball or trying outdoor track for the first time.
Looking for his niche, Kone gave track a shot.
In that first season, he saw something different than what other sports had to offer.
“I really enjoyed and felt close with my teammates,” said Kone. “There’s something about track and the attitudes that are associated with track that are somewhat different from other sports.”
After that, Kone continued coming back every spring through his years in middle school and at Bucksport High School.
“I think the thing that kept me coming back to track, year after year, was the thought of ‘how much better could I really get?’ and so I just kept competing over the years,” said Kone.
Flash forward to today, where Kone, a senior this fall at Colby College, is now a national champion track athlete.
He won the 100-meter dash at the NCAA Division III Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships on May 26, clocking in at 10.24 seconds. The mark was a school record and third fastest in NCAA history.
Colby track coach Jared Beers credited the title to not only Kone’s talent but his work ethic.
“He has some tremendous natural gifts,” said Beers. “Then you mix in how he is as hardworking and detail oriented in his preparation as anyone that I have ever met.”
Kone echoed his coach’s sentiments on the success, but also felt there were more complex factors at work.
“I also think that all of the little things that I did on and off the track really set me up for success for both of the seasons.” he said. “I was eating healthy, making sure I got plenty of sleep, paying closer attention to the detail of everything that we were doing in practice and really understanding the actual purpose behind any kind of exercise that we were doing.”
The title was Kone’s second national title of the year, as he picked up the first for the 60-meter dash at the NCAA Men’s Indoor Track Championships in March.
Beers, who coaches both the indoor and outdoor teams, praised Kone’s coachability en route to the titles.
“I would definitely describe him as one of the more coachable athletes that we have,” he said. “I think it generally goes hand-and-hand with having a lot of athletic gifts, where you typically have a greater awareness of yourself.”
The indoor title may not have been if Kone did not pick up indoor track during the winter of his sophomore year. He played basketball his freshman year at Colby before making the difficult decision to dedicate to track year round.
“It took me the entire summer before my sophomore year to decide whether I was going to try and continue with basketball or try a different route that I thought I would possibly enjoy more,” he said.
Keeping the idea of switching to himself, Kone took the summer before his sophomore year to sort out his feelings. The deciding factor came in the form of his teammates on the track team coupled with where he felt his talents were needed on the track.
“I just felt like I had more to offer to the track team and we all got along great,” he said. “ I really enjoyed the relationships that I had formed with my teammates and the coaches, as everyone associated with the track team were great and fun people to be around.”
Kone has the utmost respect for his teammates and fellow athletes, and the feeling is mutual, according to Beers.
The Colby track team holds a weekly meeting to, among other business, talk about each other.
Beers explained that there is time during the session set aside for team members to compliment each other, and Kone’s name comes up frequently.
“They see him working his butt off in the library and they see him working his butt off and doing all the right things on the track,” said Beers. “Everybody sees how hard he is working and setting that example is huge.”
The work being put in on the track is something special, but Kone is striving for more off it. He is currently in the midst of a 10-week internship in the mountains of Virginia.
“I am doing parasite community research in two different species of wild mice,” he said.
While understanding that his aspirations of being a professional athlete are a bit of a stretch, Kone has set his sights on graduate school upon his graduation from Colby next spring.
“Right now my plans are to eventually go to graduate school for wildlife biology and animal behavior,” he said. “Ultimately, my goal is to one day conduct my own research on various species around the world.”
Kone aims high and Beers believes it’s a testament to his drive.
“He has high aspirations and wants to get the most out of any experience he’s involved in,” he said.
Before he gets to graduation, Kone still has lots more time to compete on the track. Unable to share specific goals due to his superstitions, Kone laid out the basics for his final act.
“Learn as much as I can about being an athlete and the various ways how I can make myself a better athlete, and of course run faster times,” he said, noting his motivation will come from his fellow track competitors, as well as competing for Colby for the final time.
Besides wondering how much faster Kone can run, Beers is looking for a similar commitment to the work at hand from his sprinter.
“You can’t ask for too much more after double national championships,” he said. “My No. 1 hope would be that he remains as detail oriented and steadfast with his preparation while staying healthy, and if he does that good things will happen.”