Cook named IATC Coach of the Year
By Molly Moser
High school girls track and field coach Angela (Behrend) Cook was recognized by the Iowa Association of Track Coaches as a class 2A Coach of the Year. She credits the recognition to her team’s growing list of triumphs. “We’ve had a lot of successful athletes lately,” says the coach. “We’re getting more well known.”
Cook’s 2013 track team earned numerous titles and broke eight school track and field records. They won four outdoor conference titles, and five team members were named to the Upper Iowa Conference Track and Field Team. The girls qualified for two events at Drake Relays and finished that meet with a runner-up in the 800-meter run and an athlete placing 14 of 25 in the long jump. The Telegraph Herald named Jasmine Staebler Athlete of the Week.
Clayton Ridge girls track also qualified six athletes in five events at the State Track & Field Championship Meet, bringing home State Champion titles in the open 200 meter dash, 400 meter dash, and 800 meter run, as well as a fourth place finish in the sprint medley relay. The team placed 6th overall at the State Meet.
Cook’s own athletic accomplishments are as notable as those of her team. In college, she was part of a nationally ranked 4x400 meter relay team. Cook is also a three-time all-American in the javelin throw and 4x100 meter relay. “I have competed all over the U.S., such as Los Angeles, Calif., (my team was on the Price is Right), Ohio State, Kansas Relays, Drake Relays, and New York,” she said. “I have competed with Olympic hopefuls and was at a meet where Andrew Rock competed before he was a U.S. Olympian.”
A 2000 graduate of Guttenberg High School, Cook is now mother to two: Gabe, five, and Luke, four. She travels between Guttenberg and Garnavillo each day, teaching high school and middle school art classes. In addition to coaching track each spring, she spends the fall coaching cross-country. In the past, she has also coached volleyball and basketball at Clayton Ridge.
“I think it’s a mental thing,” Cook says of her decision to keep so busy. “Growing up, I was always doing something. I did everything to stay out of trouble.” As a high school athlete, she participated in track, basketball, volleyball, softball, and soccer. While attending Loras College in Dubuque, Cook played basketball and joined the track team.
Seeing her athletes flourish motivates the coach. “I want them to exceed their expectations. I really do,” she says. “My goal as a coach is to educate and inspire them to get to that point.”
“I try to educate that there is no greater feeling than the feeling that you have done all you can do after an event – usually this feeling is experienced from the ground,” says Cook. “And why waste your time if you’re not going to give it your best?”
Cook began coaching track and field at Clayton Ridge as assistant to Nick Brown. She plans to complete her fourth season as head coach this spring. “I use a lot of what I learned from my coaches in college, other Clayton Ridge coaches, and my athletes — I'm always learning and I still have more to learn,” Cook says. She praises the parents of her athletes for coming to events and supporting the team.
The coach says she tries to stay in shape for her team. “If I expect them to do it, I better be able to do it,” she explains. Last summer, she and her family took three high school athletes to a once-in-a-lifetime race in Colorado. The event was a 5K-zombie obstacle course called, “Run for Your Lives.”
“They had the zombies decked out,” she told The Press. Runners wore flags around their waists, and the goal was to complete the obstacle course without letting a zombie snatch the flags. Cook participated alongside her athletes, but admits she was caught and turned into a zombie.
“We have talent here,” says Cook, who thrives on the success of her team. “Having people succeed is such a great feeling.”