After her first career Meet of Champions victory, Tierra Hooker is preparing for nationals in New York
Tierra Hooker stands several feet back from the high jump mat, her feet stuck in place on the gym floor. She stands up straight, arching her back and straightening her legs several times before taking a deep breath and running toward the mat. Her arms go up and down at an exaggerated distance during her approach.
After a few seconds, she curls in from her wide ascent toward the bar, leaps with her face and stomach facing the ceiling, and makes it over the bar to land on the blue, beaten mat in Timber Creek’s basketball gym.
Hooker is doing her normal practice routine with assistant indoor coach Erik Geisinger to get more reps in as her indoor track and field season continues, despite outdoor practices having started for the rest of South Jersey. However, what Hooker does is not normal; it’s extraordinary.
At the NJSIAA Meet of Champions on Sunday, Feb. 24, at the John Bennett Indoor Sports Complex in Toms River, Hooker continued her junior season in fantastic fashion in multiple events.
Having come to Timber Creek Regional High School as an already established superior high jumper, Hooker claimed her first first-place finish at the Meet of Champions, after having finished second the previous two years in outdoor and once during indoor, for a combined three second-place finishes until this season.
Hooker cleared 5-feet, 8-inches in the high jump finals to become the Girls Meet of Champions champion for New Jersey, something she had labeled as a goal of hers to accomplish coming into the season.
Although it may have been easy to become dejected after multiple seasons of not reaching the ultimate goal, Hooker stayed strong and kept her focus. After all, so much of high jump is mental.
“Basically, high jump is 85 percent mental and 15 percent your body,” Hooker said. “Most of the time if I tell myself I’m going to clear [the bar] or visualize myself clearing it, it’ll happen. But if I rush in or tell myself that I can’t do it then I probably can’t.”
Outside of continuing to focus on technique and improving every little thing meet after meet, Hooker started weight training and lifting more this year than she ever has before, a large aspect she attributes to helping her this season.
While qualifying for the Meet of Champions for five straight seasons is quite an accomplishment in and of itself, as well as finally accomplishing her goal of winning an event at the meet, Hooker says becoming more well-rounded over the years is an important part of her track career.
“I came here mainly doing high jump, but now I’ve moved over to doing a bunch of different events as well and having a variety,” Hooker said. “I qualified for the 55-meter hurdles and got third [this year] so that was also quite an establishment.”
Geisinger, who also serves as the head outdoor girls coach, has seen Hooker progress as a track and field athlete over the past three years, becoming more versatile and excelling in multiple events.
When she came to the high school, Geisinger says her PR’s were already exceptional for high school athletes in high jump. However, her drive to work harder and get better and brought her to another level.
“To realize that there are other girls at this level as well definitely helped her,” Geisinger said. “She definitely came in as mainly a high jumper, and she’s now become so much more.”
Geisinger says she’s continued to improve her long jump, 400 times and hurdles times on top of becoming a high jump champion.
“She’s becoming much more well-rounded,” Geisinger said.
“But of course, she loves high jump,” Geisigner added with a laugh.
Hooker currently holds multiple indoor and outdoor track and field records at Timber Creek as she is halfway through her junior season, including high jump, 55-meter hurdles, 100-meter hurdles and long jump individually, while also being a member of the 4×100 and 4×400 record relay teams.
“I’ve had great athletes in one or two events, but the fact that I can (put) Tierra in so many different things … she’s definitely the best athlete I’ve ever coached at Timber Creek,” Geisigner said.
Hooker now moves on to compete at the New Balance Nationals for indoor track and field in New York from Friday, March 8 to Sunday, March 10, with the goal of clearing six feet, something both her and her coach hope to see her accomplish.