Even though it’s still winter in the Centennial State, “Summer” is a comin’! As in Thornton, Colorado native and professional triathlete, Summer Cook. The now San Diego-based Cook has got her sights on a successful year after a breakthrough 2015 season that included an ITU World Cup podium finish. Check out how this once competitive swimmer plans to make an even bigger splash in 2016.
Megan Evoe: What sports did you grow up playing and did you know much about triathlon as a kid?
Summer Cook: I tried a few different sports growing up but my primary focus was on swimming, as I lacked coordination! I swam competitively from the age of nine through college. Though I had many ups and downs with the sport, I’m glad I stuck with it because it comes in handy now as a triathlete!
Evoe: After swimming and running at Villanova University, how did you get involved in triathlon?
Cook: I became involved in triathlon through USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program. The program was established to bring NCAA swimmers or runners into ITU racing. I got my start through a year-long slot in the residency program in which I was introduced to the skills necessary to be competitive in ITU racing.
Evoe: Once you graduated from the Collegiate Recruitment Program, what steps did you take to be successful in triathlon?
Cook: After graduating from the Collegiate Recruitment Program, I relocated to the San Diego area to train under coach Paulo Sousa with The Triathlon Squad. I feel as though I’ve really begun to hit my stride as part of the group. It’s a great fit for me, as I really buy into the training philosophy and I enjoy training with the supportive and successful athletes that make up the group.
Evoe: What was it like racing your first pro race and what was your first race?
Cook: My first pro race was actually my one and only non-draft race (New Orleans 5150) in 2014. I was way out of my league in terms of competition and the course. However, the race did give me my first experience racing over Olympic distance which set me up well for my first professional draft-legal race (FISU World University Games) a few weeks later where I finished fifth and helped the US to a team victory. I’d like to give non-draft another try in the future but with specific preparation and the proper equipment! My first triathlon was a local race at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Athleta Iron Girl). I had started to learn how to bike a month or two before the race and I was very eager to get out and race. I had the fastest swim and run splits of the field but lost several minutes on the sprint distance bike! After the race, I was hooked and was determined to improve!
Evoe: What did it feel like to top the podium for the first time this past October?
Cook: This past October, I achieved my first World Cup podium with a second place finish in Alanya, Turkey. Achieving a World Cup podium was one of my primary goals for the 2015 season and it took me until my final opportunity of the season to get the job done. I came close to a podium finish in Chengdu earlier in the season with a fourth place finish coming back from an injury. I was confident that I could put together a podium performance at this level as long as I set myself up to perform leading up to and throughout the race. It was thrilling to run down the blue carpet into the finish line knowing that the work I put in throughout the course of the season paid off.
Evoe: What are your racing goals for 2016 and what are some of your key races?
Cook: I’m looking to build on my progress from the latter part of the 2015 season. I would like to win a World Cup and notch a top-10 finish at the WTS level. I’m planning to primarily target World Cups with some WTS level races mixed in. My first ITU race this season will be the Mooloolaba World Cup in Australia on March 12. I try to not put too much emphasis on any particular race and I try to bring a similar approach to each one.
Evoe: What’s your favorite aspect of racing triathlon as a career?
Cook: My favorite aspect of racing triathlon as a career is finding a way to overcome the challenge I face on a regular basis. Everyday provides the opportunity to become better by finding a way to defeat the obstacles that come up whether it be a tough session, trying to learn a new skill, travel, or facing the x-factors of racing. I can’t imagine a better opportunity!