Incredibly, the best single indoor track season in recent Morris County memory almost never happened, that is if Kylene Cochrane had her wish.
Back in seventh grade, Cochrane was a soccer player.
“I loved soccer so much,” Cochrane said. “My dad (Steve) is from Kearny, which is a soccer town. My whole family played soccer. Ever since I was little, I had a soccer ball at my foot. I played soccer all the time growing up.”
In seventh grade, Cochrane tried out for her middle school team and didn’t make the cut.
“I still remember the day,” Cochrane said. “The team was posted on the wall. All my friends made it and I was the only one who didn’t. I was devastated. I was crying. It was a big deal for me.”
So Cochrane joined the cross country team in seventh grade.
“The first race I ever ran, I won,” Cochrane said. “It was somewhere in Roxbury. But I won.”
Even after she enrolled at West Morris, Cochrane was determined to be a soccer player.
“I loved soccer so much that I played soccer as a freshman,” Cochrane said. “One of the coaches saw me running around the field and said that I shouldn’t be here, that I should be running cross country.”
Cochrane initially joined the indoor track team because she wanted to keep in shape to play lacrosse in the spring.
“When I started running indoor track, I loved it,” Cochrane said. “I loved the team and the coaches. It was a lot of fun.”
There was the beginning of a sensational track and field career, highlighted by her performance this season as a senior.
Cochrane was dominant from the very first meet. It didn’t matter what distance she ran, she won.
Cochrane won the 600-meter run at the O’Leary Lid Lifter in 1:41.07, won the 1,600 at the Passarelli in 5:12.61, won the 1,000 at the Pietrewicz Polar Bear in 3:04.76, won the 600 at the Back Invitational in 1:39.86 and set a new meet record in winning the 1,600 at the Valentine in 4:57.98.
Cochrane then etched her place forever in the annals of Morris County track and field.
She had one of the best individual performances in the history of the Morris County Championships, winning the 600 (1:38.74), the 1,000 (2:56.77, setting a new meet record) and the 1,600 (5:03.83), leading the Wolfpack to their first county team title.
It was almost unthinkable that Cochrane could compete in those three races, never mind win them.
“To be honest, do I think it was a miracle that she won? Yes,” said West Morris head coach Tom Lawrence. “But am I surprised by the miracle? No. Kylene was always able to demonstrate hard work and dedication. She also had incredible consistency. She stepped up and performed when the team needed it. She’s been working so hard for three years for this season. She’s just that competitive of a kid.
Cochrane then won both the 800 (2:17.86) and the 1,600 (4:54.96) at the NJSIAA North 2 Group III, won the 1,600 at Group III (4:54.07) and won the 1,600 (4:53.17) at the Meet of Champions.
For her efforts, Cochrane has been selected as the All Daily Record Girls Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“She was mentally and physically ready this year,” Lawrence said. “The hard training level came together at the right time.’
Cochrane said that she was surprised by her dominant season.
“Every time I stepped on the track, I knew that it was where I wanted to be,” Cochrane said. “I felt an amazing sensation when I’m running. I wanted to have that feeling all the time. Coming into the season, I wanted to feel confident every time I ran.”
Cochrane said she believes that a lot of her success came from inside her head.
“Coming into the season, I knew I had to stay confident,” Cochrane said. “I had to believe in myself. Every time I stepped on the line, it didn’t matter how I did. I just tried not to stress before the race. I just wanted to go out there every time and have fun. The reason I raced so well was because I had no doubts. If you have the mindset that you’re going to win, then you’ll win.”
Cochrane was asked about her incredible performance in the county championships.
“I was determined to win all three races,” Cochrane said. “I didn’t know if I could do it. The field in the 1,600 (meter run) was packed with talent. But I just had an amazing day.”
Cochrane said that she also became less quirky this season.
“I used to be so superstitious,” Cochrane said. “I had to wear the same Spandex pants for every race.”
That must have been an odoriferous pair of pants.
“Now, I live in the moment,” Cochrane said. “I don’t worry about those little things. It’s just a confidence thing.”
Cochrane will continue her career at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. She will not try out for the soccer team at Penn. Cochrane will enroll in the prestigious College of Arts and Sciences there with the hope of eventually becoming a physical therapist after college.
Cochrane was floored when she was informed that she was named Athlete of the Year.
“There are so many phenomenal athletes in Morris County,” Cochrane said. “I’m so proud to receive this honor. I was so happy when I got the news.”
And soccer’s loss became track and field’s huge gain.
“When I didn’t make the team, I was devastated, but I’ve always believed that when one door closes, another one opens,” Cochrane said. “That was my message to start running. This gives me a lot of confidence heading into spring track. It gives me the same drive that I can do it all again.”