by Alan Hieber
She sweats and her feet pound the track pavement and when she completes her race, Wright State runner Kiersten Hook shifts her focus to cheering for her teammates or lifting them off of the track.
Soccer was the sport Hook played since she was three years old entering high school at Wayne, but after the track coach witnessed the speed she had on the field he convinced her to join the team. She went on to have a decorated career by setting the school records in the 4x400 and 4x800 meter relays and playing soccer for four years.
When she decided to keep running with WSU, Hook says coach Rick Williamson’s training plan stood out.
“I liked his training philosophy of not running you into the ground unlike some other coaches from where I visited before,” Hook said. “He doesn’t believe in that.”
As a Raider, Hook has run on the cross country paths and competed in the 400 and 800 meters on the track. Her signature event thus far has been the distance medley relay. She was a member of the relay team that holds the indoor school record in the event with a time of 12:20.42 in 2015.
“It's her (Hook) drive to run well for her teammates that allows her to raise her game to another level,” Williamson said.
Any running event can bring with it an unanticipated hurdle. Hook admits she has had shoes fall off and been tripped in a race before. She says it’s best just to shake challenges like that off.
“You work so hard leading up to these races and put all your guts into it,” Hook said. “I don’t want that all to be on the ground because of some outside factor. You make sure you don’t let it cut your focus off and just keep going.”
Hook has the heart of a lion as a competitor, but something else that her teammates, coaches and family have all noticed is that her heart is full of compassion.
It could be seen when Alexandra Brown fell to the track after a 3000 meter victory at the Horizon League indoor championship and Hook was the first one by her teammate’s side. At the Yellow Jacket Open in Cedarville on Saturday she helped carry her teammate Nicole Baumer who had just finished a 1500 meter race.
“Kiersten is a terrific teammate. She has a tremendous sense of humor and can relate to everybody,” Williamson said. “She also has a highly empathetic heart.”
Baumer, who is Hook’s roommate, has noticed her strong support of her teammates and desire to see them succeed as individuals.
“She (Hook) makes sure we are doing the right thing and will drag me outside to run or to the treadmill to make sure I get my miles in for that day,” Baumer said. “She truly wants everyone to do their best.”
Hook’s major choice of social work is another indication of her compassion. As a part of the WSU program she is required to complete three internships. This has included tutoring third graders for a reading assessment and now working at the Good Neighbor House in Dayton that specializes in providing a food bank for people below the poverty line.
The area in her field that Hook has the biggest passion for is mental health. She hopes her final 420-hour internship next year will be at a hospital, which is somewhere she would like to have a future job following graduate school.
“I choose social work as my major because I love to help people and want to be a counselor for people with mental health challenges,” Hook said. “I think that mental health is very stigmatized in our society and would like to help put an end to that. The more people I can help the better.”
Baumer also studies social work, and she believes Hook’s caring personality makes her well suited for the profession.
“Kiersten’s love for people will make her a great social worker,” Baumer said. “Her strong will to fight and advocate for what she believes in is something that will give her great success in the field.”
Hook’s experiences in sports have been a significant part of her family’s life, according to her mother Stacy Hulcher. She says even through rain, snow and blistering heat at her daughter’s events she would not have it any other way.
“It's been one of our greatest blessings and a huge part of her (Hook) growing up. Once it's all over we will truly miss it,” she said. “I can really say she has given it her all through the years and that is because of her huge heart.”
When he tried to recall a moment that has stood out in Hook’s WSU career, Williamson couldn’t think of a specific one because of the presence she brings each day.
“Everyday is a moment with Kiersten around. She has such an interesting mind and view on life,” Williamson said. “Her impact on society will be extremely positive.”
Hook is hoping to continue dropping her current outdoor 800 meter PR (2:28.01) and potentially qualify for the finals in the event at the Horizon League championship meet in May.
“Kiersten is in that momentum gathering stage. Her workouts indicate she is ready to break on through to the other side,” Williamson said.
Her running career at WSU may end at the conclusion of next season, but the impact Hook has had on her teammates is something that can last a lifetime.
“I know she will always be one of my biggest fans when it comes to life,” Baumer said. “That's why having a teammate is better when they are your best friend.”