SYRACUSE – With so many distractions, it would be easy for a Division 1 football player to coast through the final couple months of his high school senior year. It would also be easy to say thanks, but no thanks, to more rigorous work and physical labor. Wawasee High School senior Clayton Cook could have chosen the easy way out, prepping for his arrival this summer at Ball State University. But there is unfinished business for Cook, and it involves a visit to Indiana University.
A hamstring pull at the Goshen Boys Track Sectional last May threw a monkey wrench into what was shaping up as a monster state tournament for Cook. One of the top hurdlers in the area, Cook was a high seed in both the 110 and 300 hurdles. He also had one of the state’s top 100 and 200 dash times, and was the anchor for Wawasee’s 4×100 relay that had broken a school record just three weeks prior to the sectional.
Cook wound up a sectional champ in the 110 hurdles and helped the 4×100 relay to the regional, but the hurdles event became the focus. Finishing second at the regional and fifth at the state finals with a 14.57, Cook proved to himself he could rise over adversity, that being the balky leg, to achieve at the highest level.
It also raised his own expectations of what he could get out of himself.
“I have to work if I want to win. And in track I want to win a state title,” Cook said. “It was a little disappointing being hurt. I was caught up on it for a couple days. Completely healthy, I was right there in just about all of my events. Being able to focus just on the hurdles, I guess, was a blessing. I could just focus on one thing.”
The prospect for Cook of playing football at Ball State was finally resolved in February when he officially signed on to become a Cardinal. But, as Cook puts it, track still has a big place in his heart. Also being named a captain of the Wawasee track team this spring brings on a second set of responsibilities that Cook takes very seriously.
“Since signing day has been over, there hasn’t been a whole lot of football-heavy things for me to worry about, so I can focus more on track,” Cook said. “Track means a lot of me, so it’s one of my main things. Football is, of course, what I’m doing in college, and hopefully beyond that. But track is something I’ve done well at, and hoping to continue to do better.”
This spring, Cook has admitted to looking at the Wawasee record books to leave his mark in history. The almost mythical numbers left by Anthony Argentino – 13.60 in the 110 hurdles and 37.44 in the 300 hurdles – have not been approached since, including by Cook. But Cook’s record 11.07 in the 100 dash, 21.76 in the 200 dash and 43.50 in the 4×100 relay are all reminders that records can be broken.
“Last year, wind-aided I got a taste of just how fast I need to be,” Cook said, who has eclipsed 14 seconds in his history with the help of Mother Nature. “In a normal meet, I have run 14-flat. If I just run about how it felt with that wind at my back, I could end up getting that record.”
Returning to state is not just good enough for Cook, who has placed in the 110 hurdles as a junior and sophomore. Cook has also added a new wrinkle for 2015, taking on high jump and long jump, you know, just to see how he can do. Well, the first weekend of Hoosier State Qualifiers Cook cleared 21-6 in long jump to best all comers and has a 6-2 high jump under his belt in workouts. Both measurements would have put him in the conversation in the state tournament.
Cook stated, “I know I have it in me to chase the school records, but I want to do well at state in this being my last chance. There are a lot of goals I haven’t met yet.”