SHIPPENSBURG >> Jonae Cook had been dreaming of this moment for over a year.
At the PIAA State Championships in 2017, an injury forced Cook to limp to the finish of the 3A 100-meter dash. Guts and will power propelled her over the line, as she managed to complete the race and earn an eighth-place medal.
“The Jonae Cook story started not this year but last year,” said her coach, Milton Williams. “She had to jog that final just to get a medal. This year, Jonae came back more determined and much more honed in on her training and also mental aspect as well.
“She was completing workouts that in the past years were difficult for her and you could see there was something different.”
This year, the senior was ready, rested and healthy when she approached the starting line. And soon after — 12 seconds flat to be exact — she was a State Champion.
“It feels really good. I shocked myself. I’ve been saying to myself all week that I wanna win and I did, so I’m really happy,” Cook said on a hot, windy afternoon on the track at Shippensburg University.
Cook was fastest in a field of all-stars.
Hayden Robinson of Avonworth (12.06), Casey Burton of North Allegheny (12.24), Jaleezia Gibson of Truman (12.28), Lil Palacio-Lewis of Warwick (12.35), Raven Haston of Obama Academy (12.35), Riyana Owens of Dallastown (12.35) and Leah Graybill of Warwick (12.38) all gave chase, but Cook powered to the finish.
“(What made the difference for me was) just running my own race and not worrying about anybody else,” Cook said. “And being patient. And that’s what kept me in the lead.
“I knew that we all run around the same. Everyone runs no slower than 12 flat or 12.1. So I knew it was gonna be really close.”
Building steam >> Way back in those rainy and sometimes snowy days of April, this season was already shaping up as something special for Cook.
“When outdoor started, Jonae continued to be a model of consistency and in her very first 100 outdoors, she ran 12.11 seconds, a P.R. from 12.17 from last year,” notes Williams. “As her practice numbers started to look better and better, I continued to tell Jonae that if she executed the first race she could run 11.8 or 7.
“Well it took a loss at the Lower Merion Invitational, where she came in third making a crucial mistake, where she finally started to understand and trust in the race model we were trying to put together.”
At the District One Championships, Cook was at her best, winning gold in the 100 dash and racing to a silver in the 200. In the postseason, the Norristown senior did not lose a 100 race in prelims or finals.
“In not so favorable conditions, she went on to break our school record of 12.03 with an 11.89 semifinal and then in the pouring rain, she won her first district title in 12.07,” Williams said. “In our final preparation for the state meet, I informed Jonae we had a plan to combat the tough rounds of the state meet and the key was to execute this plan.
“She executed everything exactly how I instructed her to. In the final race she did not allow any other competitor to take her out of her race pattern and she delivered the first 100 State Title to Norristown since 1997.”
Some things are worth waiting — and working — for.
At states, the wind was blowing hard by the time sprinters lined up for the 100, but Cook stayed on course.
“I was pretty confident, knowing I ran an 11.89 at districts,” she said. “I didn’t run that here (at Shipp), but I was still able to get the win.
“And I’m pretty grateful for that.”
Cook made it back to the medal stand in the 200, crossing in 24.41 for the bronze.
Moving on >> Her journey to becoming a State Champion complete, Cook can now get ready to compete at the next level. She is headed to Arkansas State next year, where she’ll be majoring in Disaster Management and Emergency Preparedness.
Said Williams: “Cook has been a model of consistency and has taught the rest of the young Eagles Squad that patience, and self-belief will go very far in this sport. We will surely miss her leadership and quiet spirit on Eagle Drive in the fall.”
Her senior year at Norristown also included a stellar indoor season, during which she broke the school record in the 60-meter dash in 7.63 seconds.
At the PIAA State Indoor Track and Field Championships, Cook placed third in the 60, and seventh in the 200 in 25.20 seconds.
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