Look out, Richmond. Here comes the super Cooper group.
Five athletes from the Jaguars’ boys’ track and field team are heading to Eastern Kentucky University, most of them expecting to compete in track and cross country for the Colonels, members of the Ohio Valley Conference.
“Zach Stewart was the first one to sign during the early signing period. Jake Vandermosten’s brother, Sean Vandermosten from Conner, is already there, so Jake’s going, too,” Cooper coach Greg Tieke said. “Brady Baker made a visit and met the coach and decided he was going. Connor Greenhalgh is going. Greyson Winiger was thinking about it. Once he saw all of his friends were going, he decided he’s going to try and walk on.”
That’s an unprecedented number of boys’ track athletes from one Cooper senior class heading to Division I, to say nothing of a single college team. But the Jaguars’ loss will be the Colonels’ windfall.
The quintet helped Cooper breeze to its first Region 5 championship in program history in May. They set school records, won meet crowns and captured the hearts of their coaches, who expect that they’ll do the same for EKU track and cross country coach Rick Erdmann, a winner of four OVC indoor men’s track and field championships. The EKU men’s cross country team has won nine consecutive OVC titles and qualified for the NCAA Championships each of the last four seasons.
“They’re a really talented bunch of guys, and hard workers. They’re all pretty versatile. I think it represents Cooper well,” Tieke said. “We won the region for the first time with that group. It’s exciting to see them go on to the next level, and we’re really going to miss them.”
The fabulous five kept a furious season-long pace, ending with a finish of 15th at the ultra-competetive Class 3A state meet. Stewart was runner-up in the state 3,200 meters. Junior Caleb Watson was seventh in the open 400. Greenhalgh was 11th in the 1,600.
Before that came a deluge of medals, ribbons and accolades and a school-record 132-point showing at the regional meet at Campbell County. Leading the way were the college recruits, four state-qualifying relay teams and Watson, who was part of four regional winners–the open 200 and 400 meters, and two relays.
“That was huge. By himself, Caleb helped us win 40 points,” Tieke said. “The regional was a day where we needed every single point with no drop in times, and we got that.”
Stewart won the regional 800. Greenhalgh took the 1,600. Baker was fourth in both races. Greenhalgh, one of the Greenhalgh triplets, also won the 3,200, and Stewart was runner-up. Vandermosten, Baker and Stewart were on the regional-winning 3,200 relay team with Mitchell Greenhalgh, who ran with Winiger, Watson and Tyler Brennan on the 1,600 relay champion. Watson, Winiger, Brennan and Tyson Jackson ran on the victorious 800 relay team.
Brennan, Jackson, Torrey Cordell-Armstrong and Jalen Holder finished fourth in the 400 relay. Junior Erik Pavek was second in the discus, just six inches out of first. That group of five will be back next season, hoping to make it a regional repeat for Cooper.
Meanwhile, EKU will be overrun by Jaguars and Cougars. The Colonels could possibly add five new Cooper track and field athletes to the three they already have from Conner.