As soon as nobody was looking, Cion Hicks sneaked another S’more.
She scarfed down about six of them, completely undetected. Then, when folks started wondering what happened to all the chocolate, she just smiled and shrugged.
It’s safe to say that few athletes are enjoying their senior year any more than Hicks, Baylor’s effervescent all-conference shot put and discus thrower.
The S’mores-swiping occurred at a gathering for the team at head coach Todd Harbour’s house, and showed off Hicks’ playful side and her fun-loving personality. But she’s had lots to savor from a competition standpoint as well, as she has won gold in the shot put in every one of her meets during the outdoor season, five in a row and counting. She also owns two discus titles and two silvers as well.
“Cion, you can’t even put into words what a special young lady she is,” Harbour said. “She’s had a great indoor season and stepped up big indoors and has carried that on through the outdoor season. I don’t think she’s hit her big discus throw yet, I think she’s still got a really big discus throw in her. But her shot put has just taken off. She’s got one of the top shots in the country right now.”
Coming up through junior high and high school, Hicks assumed basketball would be her ticket to a college scholarship. She loved the game, whereas she mostly tolerated track and field because she was good at it.
But good gave way to great, prompting Hicks to rethink her options. By her junior year at Shoemaker High in Killeen, she had developed into one of the top throwers in the country.
“All of the sudden my junior year all of the sudden I took off and was No. 2 in the nation in the discus,” Hicks said, “and after that my family was like, ‘Yeah, you should probably put the basketball down.’ So I stuck with track and field, and it’s amazing.”
Hicks’ mailbox began to resemble Santa Claus’s, as recruiting letters poured in daily. She narrowed her choices to TCU, Texas, Alabama, Arizona State and Baylor, making visits to each school.
Given Killeen’s proximity to Waco, Hicks’ familiarity with Baylor was off the charts. But that made the Bears the darkhorse in many ways, as she expected to sign elsewhere and ultimately was very close to doing so.
“I almost committed to Texas, was literally a blink of an eye away, but something halted my gears and I thought, ‘No, maybe you should reconsider,’” she said. “But something, I think it was God, said to me, ‘This is the place for you.’ I committed, and then when I came here it was just confirmation of my commitment.”
Hicks swept the Class 5A state titles in the shot put and discus her senior year at Shoemaker. When she arrived at Baylor in the fall of 2013, she ran into Skylar White, who had just completed a multi-time All-America run for the Bears. From their very first meeting, Hicks threw down the gauntlet.
“My little self came in freshman year and told her that I was breaking all of her records,” Hicks said. “She was of course looking at me like, ‘You have a long way to go.’ And I did.”
Hicks wasn’t bad her freshman year of 2014, but she didn’t exactly threaten any of White’s records, either. Early in her career at Baylor, she found that she was her own worst enemy on meet day. Not only did she have an 8.8-pound shot and a 2.2-pound discus to heave, and plenty of powerful challengers to tackle, but she constantly had to penetrate her own mental block.
In time, with the help of a sports psychologist, she learned to let go.
“I stopped being hard-headed,” Hicks said. “A lot of times when I competed I used to get very upset if I didn’t get the result I wanted to get, and I would sometimes change up what I was doing. Or I would be so frustrated that it was hard for me to receive what my coach was telling me. But as the years went on I realized that, if you actually listen to your coach you’ll make a better change.”
Now when she spins around and around in that ring, Hicks maintains the right balance. She doesn’t get in her own way. She was elected a team captain for the Bears, a role that matches her outgoing personality and her team-first mindset. Entering this weekend’s Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Lawrence, Kan., she owns the eighth-best shot put distance in the country at 56-91/4, a school-record heave that topped White’s old mark.
White, in fact, inspired Hicks’ pursuit.
“I’m forever grateful for (White),” Hicks said. “I always tell her that all the time. She always shies me away. She’s like, ‘Nah, thank God.’ And I’m like, ‘I am thanking God and thanking you.’”
Hicks senses the finality of her senior season and as such tries to soak up every moment, whether it’s munching on S’mores or chasing medals. She will graduate on Saturday – she won’t get the chance to walk with her graduating class since she’ll be competing in Lawrence – and plans to pursue her master’s degree in Baylor’s sports pedagogy program, with a bent toward teaching and coaching someday.
Hicks isn’t ready to throw in the towel on competitive track and field quite yet, either. Her throw of nearly 57 feet was accompanied by an overwhelming feeling that she still had plenty of gas left in the tank. So why not give the professional ranks a shot?
“I don’t know what could happen,” Hicks said. “My body could be really stout, and I could start throwing even further. I’m excited. I definitely don’t want to halt it while I’m still hot. You don’t want to turn off the oven while everything is still cooking, right?”