Jaheim Dotson remembers the feeling of awe as he stepped onto the track as a freshman and sophomore to race upperclassmen. As many track athletes do, Dotson has a supreme appreciation of the sport and enjoys watching a fast time almost as much as he enjoys running them.
Lately, he’s been the one running them. Now in his senior indoor season, Dotson is the upperclassman that others are watching. And those watching him aren’t just Long Islanders. No, Dotson is a state-wide name.
The Longwood hurdler is the fastest returning 55-meter hurdler in the state. He placed fifth in 7.56 seconds at the state championships last season but, with the top four gone to graduation, Dotson enters the winter at the top.
And he loves it.
“It does drive me,” Dotson said. “I know there’s going to be people after me because, even when I walk into meets, there’s kids saying ‘oh, I’m just trying to stay up with you. I’m just trying to stay right behind you and not be too far.’ ”
Dotson remembers thinking those same sort of things about others when he was a younger runner. The presence of those more seasoned athletes pushed him to clock faster times. He only hopes he can have the same effect on others this season.
“It makes me feel good,” said Dotson, who also long jumps. “Because I’m at the top, people want to chase after me. It makes them determined to try and beat me, so they’re going to work as hard as I am.”
That’s not to say he wants to lose. Far from it. Dotson said he knows he has to work all that much harder to stay at the top. Just because he walked into December as a favorite doesn’t mean he’s going to walk out of March a champion. That uncertainty drives him.
“[It] makes me more dedicated and determined with what I want,” he said. “And what I want is a state championship.”
Dotson almost got one last spring. He ran a 14.61 to finish fourth in the outdoor state 110-meter hurdles championship and ran a 54.73 to finish third in the 400 hurdles — the top non-senior finish in both events. Ever the perfectionist, Dotson constantly is tinkering with his start. While a good start doesn’t necessarily make a race, a particularly bad one can break it.
“I was happy with my start [in spring], but not as much as I thought I would be,” Dotson said. “But looking at it now and talking to my coaches, they said I improved a lot.”
Last season as a whole was a revelation for Dotson. It was, he said, a year where he realized that faster times were probable and state championships were possible.
“I realized what I was able to do, so I took things a little more seriously,” he said. “Not too many people are able to have talent like this, so I took that recognition and prepped myself for next season and told myself that I would do better.”
Better might mean gold this season. Regardless, others are bound to notice.
TOP 10 BOYS TRACK TEAMS
1. St. Anthony’s
6. Smithtown West
7. Mount Sinai