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Shifted Sails: The Story of One Year
Follow Summer Cook on Twitter @sums01 and her blog at summercook.weebly.com.
One year ago, I stood on the infield at Villanova University’s commencement ceremony. In my hand was my degree and in my head was a blueprint of how the next year was going to play out. I had plans to return to Villanova for graduate school and a fifth year of eligibility in cross country and track and field after spending the summer at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center as a resident member of USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program (CRP). There are times that day feels like yesterday and times it feels like a lifetime ago. Regardless, my plans and life have changed a lot since then.
After 12 years of swimming – including four at the Division I level – and the addition of cross country and track and field at the Division I level with minimal prior running experience, it seemed triathlon was the next logical step in my athletic career. Biking didn’t come nearly as naturally to me as running and swimming, but I set my mind to persevere. Despite the fact I was hardly proficient on the bike at the time, I opted to remain part of the CRP Resident Program rather than return to Villanova. My baby steps on the bike combined with a renewed love for swimming after several years of burnout left me encouraged to take a leap into the unknown. I made arrangements to continue my graduate education online through the University of Colorado-Denver while setting forth on a triathlon journey.
The CRP Resident Program does an excellent job of trying to provide us newbies the support we need to jump-start our careers in the sport. The group relocated to Scottsdale, Ariz., in November, which proved to be a perfect move for me to help hone my bike skills outdoors during the winter. I consider myself especially lucky to have had the opportunity to migrate south given the hard winter the majority of the country experienced. More importantly, I’ve been blessed with incredibly talented teammates to help me train, coaches with a wealth of knowledge and incredible resources to help me continue to grow as both an athlete and a person. I can’t imagine a better opportunity for an up and coming athlete to have.
Armed with this support, I put in the hard work and after eight months in the sport I earned my elite card in Clermont, Fla., in March. Since then I have had the opportunity to race as a member on a mixed team relay, dabble in non-draft racing and be part of a team victory at the FISU World University Games in Brasilia, Brazil. Each of these adventures provided their own challenges, but were also filled with small triumphs and new friends. I wouldn’t have accomplished or experienced any of this without my family, friends and coaches. I’ve also had the added support of Team Psycho, who sponsors CRP resident athletes. I’m excited to have the opportunity to race at the Dallas Pan American Championships event at the end of May and test my continued progress. I look forward to continuing on this adventure and discovering what this path has in store for me!