Meet Torrington’s Emerging Running Star Ashlynn Cook. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Torrington’s Ashlynn Cook admittedly was “decent” when she picked up the sport of running in the sixth grade. Well, a few years later the Torrington High School sophomore is on the fast track to success. And the sky seems the limit.
“I started running in the sixth grade but didn’t start anything competitively until seventh grade,” said Cook, who won the Naugatuck Valley League novice race and placed among the top runners in the NVL Copper Division at the NVL Championships held recently at Watertown’s Veteran’s Memorial Park. “I was decent but I was told to never give it up because I had a gift and no one has any idea where it came from.”
Last week, Cook finished 16th overall in the NVL girl’s race, which was won by Derby’s Gabriella Prizio in a time of 19:53. Torrington finished seventh overall as a team. In the Copper Division, Cook was fifth, her time only 25 seconds behind Naugatuck’s Madison Beasley, the race winner. THS finished third as a team in the Copper Division. Cook’s time was almost two seconds faster than the second best runner on the Torrington squad.
She continued recounting her beginnings in the sport. “I was good for my age but there were always many girls better. Where I am today took time to get to. There were many cold, painful and restless practices that almost had me on the verge of quitting. But it made me stronger in the end and made me realize why I took up the sport in the first place---to do something not many people would have seen coming.”
Cook said she lives up to the saying, “Expect the unexpected.” She added, “I wanted to take up a sport that could eventually get me to somewhere in life on my own but I had no idea that this is where I would be today.”
She posted her best time to date (21:26.95) at the NVL Championships and has earned numerous medals for top finishes in her age division at road races throughout the state. During the summer, she competed in the Region 1 Junior Olympic Championships in New York City and qualified for the USATF Junior Olympic National Championships in Greensboro, N.C. at North Carolina A&T.
“I really just want to be the best I can at this age,” she said of her immediate goals. “I feel like I have improved dramatically as a runner from where I was my freshman year at THS. I have dropped four minutes from my best time, which is huge considering it was just a year ago that I posted that original best. However, I still have so much more I want to accomplish in the sport of running.”
Cook is a member of the Litchfield Track Club and is under the guidance of longtime running coach Dave Driscoll.
“Dave has had an enormous impact on my running career. Racing across the state and across the country, he has been with me through my entire journey and I would not be where I am today without him. Dave is one of the few people who believed and saw a true athlete in me that I never saw. He has helped me accomplish more than I would have ever imagined and I cannot thank him enough.”
Cook knows she has a ways to go and lots of work to put in to reach her ultimate goals, to win big races at the high school level and to run in college.
“It will definitely take countless hours and tough practices but I’m willing to put in the effort if it gets me far in life. Running against some of the best girls in the country will help me improve and get me where I want to be. But I know it will take time.”
During the spring, Cook competes with the THS track and field team and plays basketball in a summer league. In the fall, it’s strictly cross-country and during the winter it’s back to basketball, although she competes year-round in various road races throughout Connecticut.
Ashlynn Cook is a young lady with her goals in running clearly defined, and she’s swiftly moving along in her pursuit of excellence on the cross-country trails and on the track.