TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Now in the final leg of her decorated high school career, Jessica Cook has chosen where she’ll run next.
On Wednesday at Eastern High School, Cook signed her National Letter of Intent to join the Shawnee State University cross country and track and field teams next fall.
“I’ve always wanted to run in college,” Cook said. “It’s been my dream since I watched my oldest brother run. This gives me the opportunity to make someone of myself. It defiantly feels good to have all of my hard work pay off.”
In four years of cross country for EHS, Cook qualified for the state meet three times, with her best state finish being 19:35, a 21st place mark in her freshman year.
In cross county, Cook was league champion as a sophomore and a junior, while finishing second in the league in her freshman and senior seasons. Cook was top-5 in the district meet in all-4 seasons at EHS.
Cook is the school record holder for girls cross county with a time of 19:05, which she ran in her sophomore season.
In track and field, as a freshman, Cook was a state qualifier in the 1600m run and the 4x800m relay. In her sophomore campaign, Cook was a state qualifier in the 800m run.
Cook is the current school record holder in the girls 1600m run with a time of 5:17.05, which came in her freshman season.
Jessica credits EHS and head coach Josh Fogle for helping her become the runner that the is today.
“My coach trains me everyday,” Cook said. “We run most Sundays, the sprinters on our team don’t have to run on Sundays, so that’s fun. We’ve had to run on holidays before too, I guess that’s pretty intense. We only get two weeks off in between seasons. I think we’re pretty prepared for what college has to bring, but I still feel like it will be something new.”
In Cook’s previous seven seasons of varsity competition — four cross county and three track and field — the Lady Eagles have won the league and the district all-7 times.
“She’s meant a lot over the last four years,” Fogle said. “We’re losing a 5-or-6-time state qualifier. She came in and kind of had no idea what she was doing her freshman year, and she turned into being one of the best distance runners in program history. I think she’s a good pickup for Shawnee State. They’re getting one of the best distance to mid-distance runners in Southeastern Ohio.”
Cook will be joining a SSU program that competes in the NAIA and Mid-South Conference. The Bears are led by head coach Eric Putnam.
“She’s had one of the most decorated careers of any kid to run distance here at Eastern,” Putnam said of Jessica. “We’re hoping that she can come in and be anywhere from 3-to-7 on our cross country team in the fall. It depends what we want to do with her in track, but I’d say mid-distance. With her height we could experiment a little bit in the hurdles. I’d like to try her in the steeple chase, because I think she has all the tools to be exceptional at that.”
“We have a deep team with some really good upperclassmen for a small college. It’ll be an adjustment to run with them everyday and get used to being pushed on every single run. I think she’ll do well as long as she gets her miles in, which I have no reason to believe she wouldn’t do.”
At Shawnee State, Cook — who held a 3.3 grade-point-average in high school — will major in Nursing.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.