The Stride Report will be running a series of articles consisting of interviews and op-eds from athletes across the nation. Our aim is to bring you a variety of perspectives from multiple collegiates in the running community who have been impacted by the recent competition cancellations.
Oregon's Cooper Teare was among the NCAA's most elite distance runners this past year. After finishing 6th at the NCAA XC Championships, Teare ripped off a handful of jaw-dropping times during the winter months, standing out as a potential title favorite in the deepest 3k field that the NCAA has ever seen. We asked Cooper a few questions about the recent cancellations and how he was impacted.
Many thanks to Cooper for the time and insight during such a stressful time!
The Stride Report: Let’s talk about your season real quick. After finishing 6th at the NCAA XC Championships, you anchored Oregon’s DMR to a national record, ran 7:46 for 3000 meters and posted a 3:55 mile before Nationals. Talk a little bit about the fitness you were/are in and how you reached this new tier of talent.
Cooper Teare: I took a little more time this summer to make sure I had a base under my belt and got almost a full three months of just stacking weeks together. That definitely made the difference in cross. I think it got me a jump on the track season both fitness wise and just with excitement.
After having four weeks of racing in a row seeing PR’s, it was pretty apparent that I was in the best shape of my life and I had never been more excited to compete for a national title. Coach Thomas did everything in his power to get us ready for a historic run at Nationals and I think the whole team was confident that it was going to be a pretty amazing weekend in Albuquerque.
TSR: Where were you when you found out that the Indoor National Championships were going to be cancelled? Can you take us through some of your own emotions and how it impacted everyone around you?
Cooper: I had just gotten back from doing an ESPN interview with my teammate Charlie Hunter when it began spreading that the meet was cancelled. I remember walking back to the hotel from the track and seeing the Indiana team and them yelling “Us and Notre Dame are out” and my heart sunk a little bit because that was the moment I realized that big teams were beginning to pull out and that it could really only get worse.
Coach Thomas gave us the news when we got back to the hotel and you could just see everyone’s face look down. I personally went back to my room, had a cry, then just tried to be with my teammates and find some sort of bright side to the horrible situation. Coach Thomas gave us some wise words and I think we all found a little peace in his calmness.
TSR: Was there ever a point when you realized that cancelling the national meet was a realistic possibility? If so, when was that?
Cooper: I really did not have any thoughts that we might not get to run Nationals until really the day it was announced. The first time it crept into my head was when my friend Shae Anderson texted me and told me that UCLA had plans to fly home that afternoon and not compete. Hearing that was the first time I thought, "Hey, this could happen to us too" and sure enough, a few hours later we were upstairs packing our bags and scrambling to find flights home.
TSR: The NCAA is expected to grant an additional season of spring eligibility while recent reports suggest that additional winter track eligibility is “unlikely”. What are your thoughts on that?
Cooper: I am glad that they are going to grant a spring season, it actually worked out quite well in my case as I was planning on potentially red-shirting the outdoor season, but I think that losing winter is a tough blow. I would have given up all the races I had run in the winter for one shot at winning a national title, because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re here for.
Although it was a pretty insane indoor season, I was more than anything looking forward to really testing myself against guys who were doing incredible things the whole season (the NAU boys, Yared Nuguse, etc.) and having that opportunity taken away was a worse pain than any loss or bad race that could’ve happened.
TSR: How will this impact the seniors you’ve spoken to? Has anyone made a decision about what they will do with additional eligibility in the spring?
Cooper: This is a really hard time for any senior out there and the decision to stay or go is more than just that, because there are so many other factors that go into it (school, scholarship, etc.). I was extremely sad for my teammate James West because I think he was due for one of the best indoor triples we have seen in a while. Losing that opportunity and all that was to come with the spring season is devastating.
I know the decision is hard because he has to try to figure out what to do in school to potentially stay eligible if he wants to come back and has to weigh if it is really worth it or if there is another option out there. I’m sure all of the seniors will have a long process ahead of them trying to sort out this whole thing and I wish them all the best of luck.
TSR: What’s next for you? What will you do over the next few months?
Cooper: At this point, there is not much to do but continue to train as if it was business as usual. I know my coach is still talking to some meet directors and it looks like there will be a few meets still happening, so I am just trying to get fit and capitalize on the new opportunities I will have this spring. It will all be in hopes of getting an Olympic Trials qualifying time, given they are still on.
Other than that, it is never too early to get a good base going for the fall and there is nowhere I would rather do that than in Eugene with my teammates.