Harnessing lessons learned from failure finally paid off Friday for Hays High senior long jumper Dillon Baker.
By leaping a distance of 22-feet, 4.75 inches at the Region IV, 6A meet in San Antonio, Baker formally punched his ticket to compete at the UIL state track and field meet in Austin next month.
But earning a spot at state also meant navigating and overcoming a handful of bumps in the road, primarily missing out on the finals at the 2017 Region IV, 6A competition by one-quarter of an inch.
Through determination and perseverance, Baker now eyes a chance to earn a state title.
“Last year, I missed finals by a quarter of an inch. Coming into this season, I was really upset by that,” Baker said. “I made it my goal to make it to state. It’s a blessing to see how my hard work has paid off.”
To reach his goal, Baker said training began soon after the 2017 season ended. Along with focusing on his body’s core muscles, Baker said he also worked on the “mechanical stuff” that goes in-sync with long jumping.
Those aspects include improving his speed down the runway and strengthening his lower body for increased height and distance.
“It really is a mechanical game,” Baker said. “I focused on that this season and it has paid off.”
Travis Finch, Hays High assistant track coach, said Baker has taken “a lot of ownership with everything he does,” which has helped him improve his long jump abilities.
“Every week has been a progression. I feel like he has gotten better every week as the season has gone on,” Finch said. “And he has worked hard for it and it’s well deserved. I’m excited for him.”
But even Baker was surprised at the level of success he has experienced so far in 2018.
Along with claiming the Region IV, 6A long jump title, Baker also took the area championship, and was also the 25-6A district champion as well.
Those successes were prefaced by a second place finish at the 2018 Texas Relays in Austin in March.
“This season has been kind of a shocker,” Baker said. “Coming out last season, not making it past region, to get 2nd at Texas Relays was really awesome.”
Fueling Baker was the desire to improve his personal records. From the first meet of the 2018 season, Baker said he has consistently improved his PR nearly every week.
Doing so has helped him look past competition, especially at the Region IV meet, which featured several jumpers from the San Antonio and Corpus Christi areas.
The success was validating for Baker, who began his journey into long jumping when he was influenced by his mother at age 12.
“I was just concerned about doing my best,” Baker said. “Focused on getting a PR, which didn’t happen today. But I’m content with what has happened, and I get another two weeks to make that happen.”