Cahlil Hooper: A Successful Culver City Athlete
Competes at State Championship in Clovis
June 9, 2016
Cahlil Hooper of Culver City High is very fast. You might say he was born fast. He set the boys 200m school record with a time of 21.34 three weeks ago at the 2016 CIF Southern Section Track and Field Divisional Finals at Cerritos College Stadium in Norwalk.
The following Friday, May 27, Hooper qualified for the CIF California State Track & Field Championships again at Cerritos College by placing sixth at the California CIF Masters in the 200m event.
Now a senior who is graduating this Friday he is also officially one of the fastest sprinters in the State.
"I did pretty good. I raced on Friday and qualified for Saturday.
I placed ninth in the 200m finals for the State meet in Clovis. So it was a pretty good experience," related Hooper.
"I ran a 21.89. I didn't run as well as I had in the past but it was a late event. I raced at 9 pm on both days. It was hot, like 108 degrees, but we ran at night when it was 75."
Hooper on setting the new 200m school mark: "It was crazy that day. I PR'ed in CIF Finals and broke the school record, which I didn't know at the time. Coach (Jahmal) Wright told me afterward and he was excited. It was a pretty good feeling.
"To get a PR that late in the season... I was very excited about my time. I felt very nervous but I prepared just the same as I always do. I trusted my technique and trusted what I had been coached. All of it came together."
Not only has Hooper represented Culver High at the State Championships he also was an integral part of the high-scoring Centaur football team this past season. He plans to attend West L.A. College this coming fall to study anthropology while also continuing to run track and play football.
Hooper inherited his athletic skills and drive from each of his parents. His mother, Evelyn Hooper, was an excellent sprinter in high school and his father, Ricardo Hooper, played Division I college football.
"Both of my parents got me going in sports. My dad was a wide receiver at Clemson University. He was a three-year starter for the program as a walk-on," said Hooper.
"My mom got me going in track. My mom loved track and was a standout athlete. She made the high school State 200m event in South Carolina. I've been playing football since the ninth grade and have been running track competitively since the eighth grade."
Hooper spoke about his preparation for the 200m event: "A few minutes before the race I make sure I focus on leg extension and making sure I've got my stride on, grasping the ground and technique.
"I want to get as much speed with less effort as much as possible. I try to explode out from the blocks with my arms extended, drive out and go to 30 meters fast/hard. I just think about exploding out and get that jump on everybody else."
Culver High track and field head coach Jahmal Wright and Culver girls track coach Rayfield Beaton were also instrumental in training Hooper for the sprint events.
"I worked on my running with both Coach Wright and Coach Beaton," stated Hooper.
"I learned from their knowledge and details. Both are very intelligent when it comes to track and field. I just tried to combine their knowledge and use what's best from both of them. It definitely added to my game."
Coach Wright as the school's head football coach also coached Cahlil for two years on the gridiron.
"Playing for Coach Wright in football and track and field was great because he has a passion for both and he was really good in both back when he played," said Hooper.
"He wanted to motivate us to work hard and have the same focus he had as an athlete, to have that same desire and passion and be the best that you can be. So Coach Wright was awesome.
"I played running back and corner. It was cool to be on this year's team. Everybody was friends with each other and we believed in each other to do better. It was just a great offense. We just clicked. It was an awesome experience. We weren't selfish.
"It was great playing in such a potent backfield knowing we were all fast, could made big plays and we had a little friendly competition. "Let's see how many yards we get, how many touchdowns we score, who could score the fastest and who we could outrun.
"The Lawndale and Channel Islands games stand out for me. I had really good games against them and busted for some long runs. It was a fun experience for all of us: Jonathan (Martin), Fred (Poindexter) and all of us just enjoying the game and having fun. I really enjoyed those games because we all did well."
Hooper described the sensation of the 200m event: "I feel the greatest sense of speed when I hit the straight-away coming out of the curve. That's when I feel I'm running my fastest. That feeling of speed comes when you know you're clicking and everything comes together. It makes me feel like I can compete.
"When I'm running my fastest it feels like everything is going slow. It's like time stops... that kind of sense. (Hooper laughs) Everything just slows down."
Hooper plans to run track for a while: "West L.A. College has a pretty good track program. I want to continue to get my fundamentals and technique right and then move on to a four-year school.
"I really want to go to Houston because they have a real good track coach in Carl Lewis, the former Olympian. I like to go there in either 2017 or 2018. I did a lot of research on the program."
Hooper concluded: "I'd been dreaming about going to State since I was a freshman and I finally had the opportunity to compete at the highest level. It was a great experience. I'm glad I was able to end my high school career like that and have a good memory about it.
"Running track at Culver City High was a very good experience. I felt at home immediately and felt like I had been there all my life from the way they treated me. I made some really good friends that motivated me to do better and just be great.
"They encouraged me to go to State: "You can do it. You can make it. Go on. We believe in you." And it was that motivation knowing that my team had my back.
"I was running for them and Culver City. It felt like I wasn't running alone."