RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (Arkansas Tech press release) — An Arkansas Tech alum and Ireland native will compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
Aoife Cooke will be a member of Team Ireland and compete in a marathon on Saturday, August 7.
Cooke’s sophomore season in 2005 stands unchallenged as one of the greatest in Arkansas Tech University history. She won the 2005 Gulf South Conference and NCAA Division II South Region
individual titles to become the first, and thus far only Golden Suns cross country runner to qualify for the NCAA Division II Championships. Cooke finished ninth in the 2005 national meet at Pomona, California.
“I loved my time there,” said Cooke when asked about her recollections of ATU. “I made some really, really good friends at Arkansas Tech that I still keep in touch with. I have really fond memories of Arkansas Tech. Everyone was so friendly and made me feel at home. I suffered a little bit with homesickness when I first got over there, but the people helped me.”
Injuries curtailed her collegiate career and raised doubt if she would be able to run in competitions again.
After resuming competitive running in 2015, Cooke says it took, “a couple of years” before she allowed the dream of becoming an Olympian to resurface in her mind.
She learned in fall 2020 of the Cheshire Elite Marathon, which was planned for April 2021 with COVID-19 protocols in place. Cooke finally had the opportunity she needed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Cooke won the Cheshire Elite Marathon on April 25 with a time of two hours, 28 minutes and 36 seconds, almost a minute inside the cut line to qualify for Tokyo.
Cooke departed Ireland and arrived in Utah in early June to begin altitude training and start acclimating herself to the warmer climate she will encounter in Japan.
She said that a top-20 finish in the Tokyo Olympics would make her “really happy,” but she also has the perspective of someone who not so long ago thought her running days might be complete.