Not quite two years removed from major knee surgery, Mansfield Senior’s Symphony Cooke was a quadruple winner, had a hand in two meet records and was named Most Valuable Female Runner by vote of the coaches in Friday’s Ohio Cardinal Conference track meet.
And if they had given an award for top boyfriend-girlfriend tandem, she would have shared that hardware with Madison’s Frank Douglas. He swept the hurdles, setting a meet record in the 300s.
Both were junior high phenoms, but Cooke’s track future was up in the air after her entire freshman season was wiped out leading to her surgery the summer of 2011.
She described her injury, suffered during her freshman basketball season, as “a piece of my kneecap breaking off.”
Obviously, it was going to take more than that for this “Cookie” to crumble.
Duplicating her feat as an eighth grader in the junior high OCC meet, Cooke won Friday’s 100 and 200 meter dashes in 12.72 and 26.09, respectively, and ran legs on the Tygers’ meet record-setting 4 x 100 (49.51) and 4 x 200 (1:46.0) relay crews, collaborating with Cristyn Jones, Ciara Pugh and anchor Jasmine Long.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to run this well … I thought my track career was over,” Cooke said. “But I didn’t want it to be over.
“My knee has gotten a lot better and I think my muscles have gotten a lot stronger.”
Tyger sprint coach Tyree Shine knew Cooke had an OCC “grand slam” in her.
“Cookie has nursed some injuries (including a strained quad that kept her out of last week’s Galion Invitational), but she’s a competitor,” Shine said of the Tyger junior. “She’s tiny, but she’s mighty, and she has a lot of heart.
“Her heart is bigger than she is. When she thinks she can win something, she goes for it. I told her if she won the 200 (the last of her four races), she’d be the MVP. She went out and did it.”
Douglas did a pretty good job of keeping pace with his girlfriend, winning the 110 high hurdles in 14.95 (his first time under 15 seconds this season) and setting the meet mark in the 300s with a 39.28. The previous mark of 39.35 was set by West Holmes’ Cory Reining in 2006.
“I felt good all week in practice,” said Douglas, who predicted the record might fall between races. “I had been battling a groin injury, but I was ready to get back at it.”
Turns out, all the Madison sophomore needed was a change of scenery. He hurt his groin and fell in the highs this year at the Lexington Invitational, same site of what was a nightmarish OCC meet for him in 2012.
He scraped his leg on the ninth hurdle of the highs and saw his lead disappear. Then he fell in the 300s.
“Last year was a disaster for me,” he said. “I just have no luck at Lex.”
The words “Lex” and “luck” did not work well together Friday as the Minutemen saw their string of seven straight OCC boys titles come to an end. Wooster prevailed 144.5 to 125.5 despite firsts in the 200 and 400 dashes by Bryant Switzer and his valiant anchor leg in the 4 x 400 relay.
The Princeton-bound Switzer was voted the Outstanding Male Runner, but that was little consolation.
“There wasn’t much positive to take away from the day,” said Switzer, who won the 200 in 22.85 and the 400 in 49.44 to go with a runner-up finish in the 4 x 400 (where he came from well behind) and a third in the 100. “I missed the meet record in the 400 by .02 and it’s hard when you don’t come out with a team victory. It puts a damper on everything.”
Lex also got firsts from Switzer’s twin brother Andru in the high jump (6-2) and Brandon Henderson in the long jump (21-10.75), but it wasn’t enough to overcome five firsts by Wooster, including a one-two finish in the metric mile.
“I’m proud of our guys; we just didn’t have ‘it,'” Lex coach Dan Wittmer said. “You don’t win seven in a row without catching some breaks. I thought we caught a couple, but not enough to make a different.
“I told our kids (Wooster) would be out of blood because of all the titles we had won, and they wanted it. They had no letdowns.”
Henderson had the meet’s best two long jumps — 21-6 and 21-10.75 — and decided to stop after those two attempt to save his legs.
He won a Galion Invite title seven days on his only attempt. So he’s managing to win and stay fresh.
“For the state meet, I want to be jumping 22 feet,” said Henderson, who missed by one spot of advancing to Columbus last year. “Last year I jumped 21-1 at conference, so I’ve improved by nearly a foot from where I was last year at this time.
“I had injuries last year from jumping a lot, so this year I’m not jumping every meet. The plan is to stay healthy.”
The area’s other multiple winners were Lexington’s Ellen Isaac and Ashland’s Cassie Schuster. Isaac won the 1600 in 5:21.5 and the 3200 in 12:01.46. Schuster was first in the 800 (2:26.2) and ran on the winning 4 x 400 team.