This column intends to spotlight student athlete-artists from each of SCAD’s sports teams, no matter how well-established or accomplished. This week’s piece features Caroline Cook who was named the Sun Conference Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week earlier this September.
When Caroline Cook took up running in grade school, her favorite part was the promise of ice cream at the end of the race. Cook, a senior advertising student originally from Memphis, Tennessee, started competing in one-mile races in 6 grade after her mom encouraged her to try it.
“She never ran cross country or track before, but later in her life, she started doing triathlons which I do with her now,” Cook said. “I started [running] then and turned out to be really good! That’s probably the reason I stayed in it at that age. Running isn’t the most fun sport. Actually, it’s commonly said to be ‘other sports’ punishments.’ So for me, I just did it for a while because I was good and eventually, the people on my team were my best friends, so practices were fun just because your friends were there.”
Cook received offers from colleges to run as early as her sophomore year of high school. As the college offers and letters continued, Cook said she considered running for SEC and Division schools. During her recruitment trips, she noticed a trend at larger, sports-focused schools: aside from the sport in question, nothing else, not even school or a social life, seemed to matter.
“I went on one recruitment trip and the coach had a photo of me, [and he] was analyzing my running style and told me about the things I should change,” Cook said. “He, like most other schools, also ran their scholarships based on each race performance. So if you have an off day, get injured, or what have you, you lose your scholarship.”
Beyond the pressures of running, Cook also developed an interest in other hobbies. She ran cross country in the fall, played basketball in the winter then went back to running for track in the spring. On top of all that, she rode horses year-round.
“I considered playing basketball, but dreamed of riding for a college,” Cook said. “That didn’t turn out as well though. My show resume wasn’t large or significant enough that trying to get recruited was like going to a bar and hoping a guy would notice you enough to even make eye contact. So it was back to running if I was going to go anywhere but Memphis.”
When Cook first heard about SCAD, she said she thought it did not seem like a “real” school until she did more in-depth research. That’s when she discovered they had athletics, specifically track and cross country teams.
“Then, as fate would have it, my grandma needed to go to South Carolina to see her sister and so my mom told me we could drive through Savannah and ‘just check it [SCAD] out,’” Cook said. “I contacted Coach [Patrick] Reagan before I came and sent him my stats.”
From there, Cook said everything unfolded perfectly and the stars aligned, so to speak. Since she enrolled in SCAD and started running as a Bee, Cook said she now enjoys her sport more than she ever did in high school.
“Coach Reagan was nothing like the other coaches I was recruited by,” Cook said. “SCAD was nothing like the other schools where I would have had to just pick something to study because I didn’t care for the other majors, but I also wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do either.”
Collegiate women’s cross country races are 3.1 miles (5K) long and typically held in a field or along a trail, according to Cook. Training consists of logging a certain number of miles as well as lifting light weights so as to not gain too much muscle mass.
Cook said many of her fellow students are aware SCAD offers athletics, but they often do not know about the women’s cross country team.
“If they know we have sports teams, they are usually like, ‘Cool! Wow, I hate running! How do you do it,’” Cook said. “Maybe even ‘Cool! How do you have the time?’ I have become very good at planning and getting things done last minute or even early. You have to be flexible, but also strict with undressing how much time you have.”
Since Cook has been at SCAD, her team has won the Conference title 4 years in a row. Though Cook said the team is currently struggling with injuries, everybody pulls it together in time to compete in important meets such as Conference and Nationals.
“My favorite part about running now is having a good workout because I am usually loathing having to do it beforehand unless it’s a sprint workout because those are fun,” Cook said. “Then after, if I have killed my paces or something I am usually happy. With running, because it sucks, it usually is the most rewarding thing once you have done it.”
Cook and her team’s next race will be at the Georgia College Bobcat Invitational in Milledgeville. Students can show support for SCAD Women’s Cross Country by following them on social media, including Instagram and Twitter.