Summer Cook — a Thornton native and Mountain Range High School graduate — is looking to keep the heat turned up for four more years leading into the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Now living in San Diego, the 24-year-old Cook just missed the cut as a …
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Now living in San Diego, the 24-year-old Cook just missed the cut as a 2016 Team USA triathlete despite strong recent performances that included, in April, Cook’s first International Triathlon Union World Cup victory.
In that race, which took place April 16 in Chengdu, China, Cook clocked in at 2 hours, 6 seconds on the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run course, topping the podium by nearly 40 seconds. Her previous best finish had been a silver medal at an ITU World Cup in Tongyeong, South Korea, last fall.
“That (win in China) was pretty exciting. It was my second time on that course and so I was feeling pretty confident returning to a place I knew because I knew what to expect,” Cook said in a recent interview in Thornton, where she was visiting family. “And I was really excited to have the opportunity to race there again.”
Cook followed up that victorious April 16 triathlon with a swim, bike and run May 13 at the ITU World Triathlon in Yokohama, Japan, where she was one of seven U.S. women triathletes vying for three Olympic team spots. Cook overcame stiff competition to finish a very respectable 14 place overall, but fell short of qualifying for the big show among an extremely competitive national field.
“I would have needed to be in the top three to qualify,” she said. “But that was only my third race at that level.”
And so, while a select few of her colleagues — Gwen Jorgensen of St. Paul, Minnesota; Sarah True of Hanover, New Hampshire, and Katie Zaferes of Hampstead, Maryland — will head to Brazil for the summer games, Cook will head back on the road, where she intends to keep the competitive juices simmering with a string of upcoming races.
“I have a lot more races left this season,” she said, “so I’m looking forward to competing in those.”
Cook is a relative triathlon newbie, having started training for triathlons about three years ago through a program Team USA uses to recruit collegiate swimmers and runners. She started competing seriously about two years ago and began coming into her own this past season.
“I’m really pleased with how my season is going,” Cook said. “It’s been a big progression from my previous years. I made a lot of progress over the winter and I’m definitely performing the best I ever have. But the U.S. Olympic team is one of the most difficult to qualify for in this sport.”
That’s not to say she won’t give it another go.
“I would definitely like to go for at least four more years,” Cook said.
The Villanova graduate is a full-time triathlete who moved to San Diego to train with her coach. She said the travel requirements for triathlons can put a strain on full-time athletes like herself who have no other income. Still, she said it’s a sacrifice that must be made for those who want to compete at an elite level.
“There’s only so many races that any country is allowed to host each year, and so it’s really expensive for the federations to put on a race,” she said. “And so there are races all over the world, and it really involves a lot of travel. It’s very difficult to only be halfway in, if you want to be competitive.”
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