Former Rebel places 11th at NAIA National Decathalon

Published 12:21 am Saturday, June 15, 2019

The road former Boyle County High School track and field standout Cody Cooper’s career has taken has been far from conventional. But this May, the path led him to finishing 11th in the NAIA National Championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama, in the decathlon, a sport he had never competed in before college.

“When I first started out as a decathlete I naturally picked up throwing and jumping events pretty easily. In high school I was never a runner, so running didn’t come as easy for me,” Cooper said. “It took a lot of persistence and hard work to become as good in the events like the 400 meters and the 1500 meters. In addition to that, pole vault was challenging as well. In terms of total cumulated points starting out, the throwing events were by far where I scored the most points.”

After graduating from Boyle County, Cooper did not immediately attend college, opting instead to get a job. The dissatisfaction he felt with his job, combined with his passion for athletics led him to enroll in St. Catherine College.

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“I found myself in a job where I didn’t feel as though I was reaching my full potential,” he said. “Although I didn’t think I would ever feel this way, I found myself craving knowledge that I couldn’t have fulfilled in the workplace. Additionally, I missed athletics. I decided on St. Catharine college because it was close to home and I was able to get back into track and field.”

However, in 2016, due to financial problems, St. Catherine had to close its doors, throwing another fork in Cooper’s career path.

Cooper was concerned about how he would fair in the pole vault, given his size. (Photo submitted)

“Going into the summer we didn’t know that our school would be closing. As a matter of fact, we all thought it wasn’t going to,” Cooper recalled. “At least not yet. I mean, who would close doors after summer had already began. They would tell us before we left, right? Wrong. We were all devastated. For many of us, it was our home.”

Without a school or a home, Cooper received over 30 offers from schools across the country. Ultimately, he whittled that list down to two schools in Kentucky, Bellarmine in Louisville and Georgetown, where he ultimately settled so that he could remain a decathlete.

“The choice became very clear to me after sitting down and meeting with Luke (Garnett, Georgetown track and field coach),” the former Rebel said. “Most colleges told me “You won’t do decathlon here because you’d score more points for our team if you do the open events that are in it.” and I wasn’t okay with that. I wanted to be a decathlete, and Luke wanted me to do what I wanted to do. From the beginning he wanted my success to be what I envisioned, and that’s extraordinarily rare. I also knew that I had a lot to offer this program. I knew I could make a lasting impact and I’ve worked every single day to do exactly that.”

As a Tiger, Cooper has set school records, and this year, became a part of the largest group the school has sent to nationals.

“The competition was unlike anything I’ve seen before, especially in comparison to everyday competition,” he said of the national competition. “Normal track meets don’t host decathlon’s, so the vast majority of my training comes from doing open events. I typically place pretty well amongst open competitors, so competing against guys who were equally as good or better than me in each event we competed in was bizarre.

“Each event we went to a crowd of people would follow us,” he added. “It felt almost like a golf tournament where spectators would stand behind a designated marked off area. In addition to that, cameras were on us at all times for the live streaming. It was a very unique experience. I had to adjust and block it all out mentally.”

Despite success on the national stage, Cooper hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

“I follow (Boyle County Track and Field) as best I can!” he said. “Coach (Brent) Wagner has really built and incredible program. The talent he has now is absolutely tremendous. When I was a student we had a really good women’s program. It’s extremely exciting to see the men’s program prevailing the way it is currently.”