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Cook to lead ACU Track & Field for 2020-21



ABILENE – Jerrod Cook has agreed to lead the Abilene Christian Track and Field program for the 2020-21 season. He will oversee the Wildcat’s men’s and women’s track and field and cross country teams effective June 1.

Cook’s new role follows a March 4 announcement by the university that Head Coach Lance Bingham had accepted the same position at Liberty University.

“There’s a long run of thank yous to all the people I’ve worked with at ACU over the years, but I especially want to thank the administration for this opportunity,” said Cook. “I’m very grateful to (Athletics Director) Allen Ward and (Associate Director of Athletics for Student Services) Chris Ballard for offering this position, and allowing me to continue to grow here. I also want to thank Coach Bingham for being an incredible mentor.”

“I’m thankful for how God work in our lives and how He’s always preparing us for our next steps,” added Cook. “He’s going to empower us in the positions that we’re called to, and that gives me great confidence.”

This August marks the start of Cook’s 15th year with the Wildcats. He was hired in 2006 by then-head coach Don D. Hood to be the Wildcats’ throwing coach following a decorated career as a student-athlete and assistant coach at McMurry (’04 B.S. Exercise and Sports Studies). He later served in a similar capacity under coaches Roosevelt Lofton (2009-13), Keith Barnier (2013-16) and Bingham (2016-20). He was elevated to Associate Head Coach in May 2015.

“These are unique times for our country, community and university”, said Director of Athletics Allen Ward, “and I felt it was important to provide a sense of stability and normalcy to a group of student-athletes and staff that have been admirably dealing with these unique circumstances.”

“With our students away from campus and the restrictions on travel and recruiting, I believe his appointment allows us to continue to move the track program forward in a positive direction and provide as much familiarity and reassurance as possible during this time,” said Ward. “At the same time, Jerrod will do a fantastic job leading our program next season.”

“I’m confident ACU, the NCAA, and our community will soon find itself in a more familiar place. When that occurs, I will resume our search for a new head coach,” said Ward. “I expect that we will attract an impressive pool of candidates, including Coach Cook.”

The remaining assistants, Kristian Dillard (sprints / multis), Michael Rasor (hurdles / multis), and Jarvis Jelen (cross country / distances) also return for the upcoming season. “They provide a strong and experienced group of coaches to assist Coach Cook during the upcoming season,” said Ward.

“I’m looking forward to being the head coach, and my biggest goal is to create an environment of stability for this staff and the student-athletes,” said Cook. “This is a difficult time we’re all going through right now with the Coronavirus, and so I want them (the student-athletes) to know that there’s a stable force in place here and we’ll all be on the same page when we get back … I want to see this team continue to grow off the foundation put in place four years ago by Coach Bingham.”

There’s rarely, if ever, been a lull in the Wildcats’ throwing operation since Cook’s arrival. He coached Kelli Clemens to DII All-America honors in his first year at ACU, and by the end of year two both Nick Jones (discus) and Linda Brivule (javelin) were national champions in their respective events. Jones would become only the second athlete in NCAA history (regardless of division or gender) to win four national titles in the discus joining former UCLA women’s great Seilala Sua, who won titles for the Bruins from 1997-2000.

Cook’s extensive list of proteges also includes DI All-Americas Annina Brandenburg (discus) and Kayla Melgar (shot put), plus DII national champions Paige Newby (discus), Camille Vandendriessche (decathlon) and Jessica Withrow (heptathlon).
Cook doubled as the Wildcats’ multis training coordinator from 2008-16.
ACU’s return to DI brought with it one of Cook’s best all-around recruiting classes, as from 2015-19 the crew of Melgar, McKennon Cecil, Joshua Hunter, Morgan KnightReagan MaberyTaylor PoseyRyan SimmonsKai Schmidt and Lonnie Smith combined for nine conference victories, 34 medals and 423 points (47.0 points per thrower).
This group additionally features four school record holders and more than 20 all-time top-10 performers.

Overall, Cook’s athletes have set nine (of 12) school throwing records. Brandenburg was the most recent Wildcat to add her name to the record book after she reached a shot put distance of 52 feet-3.75 inches (15.94 meters) to place first at the Texas A&M-hosted Ted Nelson Invitational. Her mark broke Marlene Lewis’ previous record of 50-9 (15.46m) that had stood for 32 years (Dec. 1987).

Less than two months later, Brandenburg would break her own shot put record (53-7, 16.33m) at the Southland Championships to win her second career conference gold medal.

ACU’s throwers were responsible for 37 points this March at the Birmingham Crossplex, where both teams placed third of 13 schools. The Wildcats swept the shot put as redshirt freshman Tyler Richardson won his event behind a first-place toss of 56-1.75 (17.11m), and scored 17 points in the men’s weight throw as freshman Jacob Mechler, junior Thomas Wilson and Richardson placed second, fourth and fifth, respectively.

In recognition of his efforts, Richardson was voted Southland Conference Indoor Freshman of the Year.

A consistent, loyal and productive assistant, Cook has twice earned the designation of interim head coach at ACU. He coached the Wildcats throughout the entire 2013 outdoor season, guiding 16 student-athletes to their final NCAA DII Championship Meet, including triple jump national champion Amanda Ouedraogo and hammer throw runner-up Baptiste Kerjean.

Cook again stepped into this role in April 2016, and helped the men’s and women’s teams each place fourth at the Southland Conference Championships where Alexandria Hackett was voted Outdoor Athlete of the Year.

“My faith in God always has played a big part in my career,” said Cook. “We’re always learning, growing, and being shown new things every day. With hindsight being 20/20, I can see how God was working in my life at certain points. I couldn’t see it then, but again I feel great confidence going into this opportunity.

“God’s set me up to be prepared for this moment and has continually surrounded me with people who have influence and guided me. I have confidence in our staff and where we are as a track program, and we’ll continue to grow in all facets. We’re not, ‘as is’ and we won’t be stagnant. As believers, we always need to continue to grow.”