When rising sophomore Marshevet Hooker set her spikes into the starting blocks in her semifinal heat in the 100 meters on Saturday, July 10, the second day of competition at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Sacramento, Calif., one slight glance to her left from her lane eight starting position could have been enough to shoot her nerves straight into outer space.
In lanes three through six, to Hooker's left, stood Torri Edwards, the 2003 World 100m Champion, Chryste Gaines, the 2001 U.S. 100m champion, Gail Devers, a two-time Olympic 100m champion, and Lauryn Williams, the reigning NCAA 100m champion.
No pressure, right?
"It was really exciting," Hooker said. "I thought the level of competition in the heat was really good and there were some fast times posted. I'm just glad I didn't finish last! It felt good to compete against so many talented athletes."
Hooker did not finish last in her semifinal heat and posted a time of 11.38 to place sixth out of eight competitors. The day before in her opening quarterfinal heat, Hooker finished third in 11.41, behind Williams and former LSU All-American Muna Lee. Her time, in fact, was the ninth-best overall entering the semifinals. But, following the second semifinal heat on Saturday, the San Antonio, Texas, native realized her Olympic dreams would have to wait as she ended up four spots out of the eighth, and final, qualifying spot for the finals.
Still, Hooker proved to herself that she belonged and could compete with the best sprinters in the country.
"Competing at Trails was a great experience for me," Hooker stated. "It was something that I had been looking forward to and something I had trained for all season. Now that I have been there, my focus and training will be geared toward next time."
Although the talented Hooker boasted the eighth-best time (11.14) entering the meet, she was the youngest competitor in the field facing many established veterans.
"I thought before the meet began it would be intimidating to face athletes with such strong credentials, and I was a little at first," Hooker said. "But, we were all going after the same goal and once I realized that I tried to treat the competition just like any other meet. It was great sharing the track with the likes of Marion Jones and Gail Devers."
Prior to the start of the Big 12 Outdoor Championships on April 29 is when Hooker, who also excels in the long jump, changed her mindset and realized that the 100m was her best shot to make it to the Trials and possibly earn one of three coveted spots on the U.S. Olympic Team.
At that meet, she finished third behind then-UT teammate Sanya Richards and Laverne Jones of Oklahoma with a time of 11.50, which at the time was her collegiate-best.
Even though she had just recorded her fastest time of the season in the 100m at the Big 12 meet, it was the NCAA Midwest Regional championships nearly a month later which separated Hooker as one of the true up-and-coming talents in the country.
She posted a mark of 11.29 in the prelims to enter the finals as one of the favorites in an experienced field. With a strong tailwind at her back (5.5 meters-per-second), Hooker overcame a troubled start to place first in a wind-aided 11.18.
"I knew the 100m was my event after the regional meet, because I had a horrible start in the finals and I came back to win that race," Hooker eluded. "That is when I knew I had a good shot in the 100m at Trials."
Things continued to go Hooker's way in the 100m at the NCAA Championships held in Austin (June 9-12), as she clocked a legal personal-best 11.14 in the prelims to become UT's third-best performer in school history. In the finals, she finished third behind Williams and Lee with another solid effort of 11.23.
With Hooker accomplishing so much and gaining racing experience against some of the best athletes in the world in just her first collegiate season, it's clear she has plenty to look back on and build for her sophomore campaign.
"I view next year as I have no reason to have fear in any of my races," Hooker said. "I have competed against the best in the country and the world. I know that I can win against the best. My performance at Trials has given me more confidence."