McPherson High School junior Brianna Cooks already owns several school records in both the middle school and high school levels in the shot put.
Now, she will get to test her mettle on the international stage.
Cooks, 17, has been invited to be one of 300 athletes to compete in the 2014 Down Under Sports Track and Field Meet, which will be held on the Gold Coast in Australia.
The junior is coming off a sophomore season with the Bullpup track and field team that saw her finish eighth at the state track and field meet in May, the only member of the girls’ team to earn a medal. In the process, Cooks set a McPherson High School record with a throw of 39 feet, 11 1/4 inches.
While she will compete with the Bullpups in the spring, her training will also focus on the international competition to be held in July 2014, which she didn’t even know she was being considered for until two weeks ago.
“I was sitting there, looking through the mail,” Cooks said, “and was like, ‘this is for me. Is this a joke?’”
The nerves quickly set in after the initial rush of excitement at the honor of being invited to such an exclusive competition that has boasted athletes like former Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer, Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green and Rob Morris, who played with the 2007 Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Coltz.
“It was kind of like, ‘oh my goodness,’” Cooks said. “I have dreams where I’m messing up when I get there. Where I fall on my face in mid-throw and a whole bunch of people laughing or something.”
Nerves aside, Cooks definitely has the ability to make a good showing on the international level during the games. In addition to the high school shot put record, she also holds the McPherson Middle School record in the shot put with a throw of 38 feet,10 inches.
She also has broken two records before moving to McPherson in the eighth grade. She shattered the St. Francis, Kan., Junior High School record that had stood firm since 1978 with a toss of 36 feet, 6 3/4 inches. She also holds the North West Kansas League record with a throw of 35 feet.
Both of these records were broken during her seventh grade season.
“She has worked really hard the past few years,” MHS coach Jace Pavlovich said. “She’s an all-around great athlete and a great kid. It’s not too often you get a kid that pays attention to detail like she does and works as hard as she does and is as humble as she is and has the athletic ability to go with it.”
Page 2 of 2 - Cooks’ family is just as excited as she is and will be helping with the fund raising required to send her to the international competition, where she will be a member of the East Central Conference Team.
“I have no words to describe how proud of her I am,” Crissy Cooks, Brianna’s mother said. “She’s always been determined to good at what she does. When she first learned to throw the shot put, she kind of learned herself. She wanted to do better and focus just on the shot put.”
The trip is fairly expensive, with basic estimates at $4,300, which includes room and board during the seven day competition. The fund raising will help offset other costs, though the initial deposit up to $600 dollars will be matched by Down Under Sports.
The fund raising effort is a family affair, as Crissy Cooks says they are all pitching in to design flyers and make plans on fund raising efforts they want to do. Anyone interested in pitching in to help with the costs have three main options. You can mail a donation or scholarship to Down Under Sports, 1755 N. 400 East, North Logan, UT 84341, or visit www.downundersports.com
Another option is to purchase a T-shirt from Brianna. The shirts on $20 each and come in both adult and youth sizes.
Next summer will mark the 26th Down Under Sports competition, which was started by a New Zealander named George O’Scanlon in 1989 who loved American football. O’Scanlon started the Down Under Bowl to promote the sport in both his native home and Australia, where he lived for a number of years.
The program spread into basketball and, eventually, track and field, cross-country, wrestling and volleyball. According to a press release from Down Under Sports, their goal is to continue to provide athletes who excel in their sport the opportunity to experience the culture, beauty and grandeur of the land Down Under, all within the framework of spirited and intense competition.
The level of competition will be high, but Brianna believes she can have a good showing next summer.
“In areas, I think I need more practice,” she said. “But, I didn’t start out with [coaching]. I kind of just learned by myself. I feel like I’ve come a long way and I might do good down there.”
Contact Chris Swick by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.