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The Prodigy -- Keeping Up With Kassidy Cook
May 14, 2012By Matt Malatesta of VYPE MAGAZINE - North Houston
Keeping Up with Kassidy Cook
By Matt Malatesta
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Kassidy Cook likes to cook. More like bake with her best buddy Abby Feeney. Mostly cupcakes. She says she doesn't really eat the cupcakes, but mostly gives them to family or friends. She claims she's more of a batter girl, who likes the gooey part before it even goes into the oven.
Interesting insight into a girl, just a junior in high school, who will compete against cooked to perfection grown women for a coveted spot on the U.S. Olympic Dive team, which will compete in the London games this summer.
She is the batter girl. She's before her time. Unlike her synchro partner Christina Loukas, who has already performed in the Olympics, Cook is this bouncy teeny-bopper who expects to make the Olympic team at the trials this summer and WIN the Olympics.
"Ever since she was three years old, she's always wanted to be the best at whatever she does," mom Laura Cook, who played basketball at the West Point and George Mason, said. "From dancing to soccer to swimming, she wanted to always be the best. She's never changed. She has no filter either. She would tell the older girls she competed against when she was nine or 10-years-old that she was going to beat them. She didn't mean to be rude, but that's her personality and we never wanted to suppress her passion to be the best."
Living in the Cook household, it is embraced. The Cook clan consists of five girls and a boy, who is the oldest. Kevin Cook was on an academic scholarship to Florida State as was Kelsey to LSU. Kylie Cook won state at The Woodlands in soccer and plays for the University of Houston, while sister Kara was a diver at Purdue. Of course there's Kassidy and the baby Kendall (Boo), who is a 6-foot freshman volleyball future star.
"I have a large family and when we are all together it is complete chaos," Kassidy said. "We are all super competitive whether it's playing tennis, a board game or seeing who will eat the most turkey at Thanksgiving. My siblings taught me how to compete -- you had too to stay alive. That's how I got my edge and they push me all the time to be better."
While her family is a tight posse by itself, she surrounds herself with others who push her to reach her goals. Boyfriend of six months Lance Miles was The Woodlands' quarterback and shortstop this season, who can also match Cook's competitive spirit.
"Sports and competition is a big part of both our lives and we are pretty active people," Miles, who will be playing for Kansas State's baseball team next season, said. "She thinks she can beat me in tennis and ping-pong, and if given the chance I think I can dive better than her. That's just how we are. She's the hardest working and most focused person I've ever met. She's has bigger goals than your normal high school girls is after. I really think even if she doesn't win the Olympics this year, that she will in the future. She's that determined."
Best friend and cooking buddy Abby Feeney is a nationally-ranked heptathlete with her own future Olympic dreams.
"We've been best friends for the past three years and we are competitive like sisters sometimes," she said. "We can relate to each other because we miss a lot of social stuff due to what we are trying to accomplish in our athletic careers. But it's worth it. I look up to her because of the sacrifices she makes and she really inspires me to be better. We are there for each other when we fail and when we have success. It's great to have someone like her on my side."
While being competitive and having the will to win is imperative, being focused is another main ingredient baked into an Olympic dream.
For most divers, diving is their one and only job. They train, they home-school and practice, spending hours in the pool with one goal -- making the Olympic team. Cook has all that, plus a social life (prom is coming up) and academics to keep up with.
"When I was about 10-years-old it really clicked," she said. "I won three golds at the Junior Pan American games against international competition. I beat the Chinese and some older competition. After that I started to realize that I was pretty good and the Olympic dream started to come into focus.
"I owned it ever since. The goal of the Olympics was not my mom's goal. It wasn't my dad's goal or even my coach's goal. It became my goal. I really don't feel any pressure from the outside. I know that my friends and family want me to make the Olympics, but no one puts pressure on me, like myself. If I don't reach that goal, I'm going to be the one most disappointed. That fuels me to go to work out every day and go to practice every day, even when I'd like to rest."
Rest? What rest? What about carrying an "A" average with several AP classes staring you in the face entering your senior year.
"The No. 1 thing on my mind right now is making the Olympics," she said. "That is the focus. I'm going to step up the academics, however, during my senior year with the hopes of going to either Stanford, Texas or Duke. I'd love to major in communications and get into broadcasting. I've gotten some experience lately with television interviews and being followed by Nickelodeon for a feature and I'd like to do that."
With all the stresses on her life, surely Cook looses it sometimes?
"She's so mentally tough that she never really does," mom Laura said. "What stresses her out the most is keeping up with her school work. But she always seems to get it done. She's a very social kid also and her friends are very important to her. When she feels like she's missing out on something, she's not happy. It's understandable being a teenage girl, but as a diver she dives best when she's happy. So we understand the importance of having that time to be a teenager."
Cook has dozens of great anecdotes of being a teenage prodigy, from signing autographs for dive fans in Mexico to obliterating the Class 5A Texas high school state dive meet record as a freshman and again as a junior.
The best came last year during the World Championships for all water sports in Shanghai. She spent three weeks overseas at one of the most state-of-the-art pools in the world and was tucked-in every night by the glow of the international city's skyline.
On one particular elevator ride, in stepped Olympic legend Michael Phelps into her car.
"Me and my dive partner looked at each other and played it so cool when he walked in," she said. "If he could have only seen us when he got off. We were jumping around and screaming that we just met Michael Phelps. I will never forget that."
Oh, if she could have just offered him one of those cupcakes.
WHAT TEAM COOK SAYS...
"I love being known as Kassidy Cook's little sister. It has it's perks. She has taught me to always work hard. She took all AP courses as a freshman and that inspired me to do that. Seeing her success has made me set my own goal of playing Division I volleyball. UCLA would be a dream."
Sister Kendall Cook
"She's a fierce competitor and very determined. She's never really competed against girls her age, which keeps her hungry. She would dominate her age group, but since she competes against older girls, she's not the best. It keeps her striving to be better."
Dive Coach Bob Gunter
"A lot of people have no clue that Kassidy is a beast in the weight room. It's funny because some days I train her with my football players and she outworks them. She is so competitive that it's crazy at times. Over the years I have seen her mature so much and I can't wait to go to London to see her in the Olympics ."
Trainer Derrick Jonkins