LONG BEACH — Former Oakhurst resident and 2012 Yosemite High School (YHS) valedictorian Riley Cooks has emerged as a top contender to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic heptathlon team.
Riley, 25, is now living in southern California and working as a substitute school teacher while training to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
Her next major hurdle — and javelin throw (and five other events in the grueling heptathon) — will come in Eugene, Oregon, in June 2020 at the U.S. Olympic Trials where Riley’s already qualified to compete.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me from as far back as high school to now,” she says. “Growing up in the mountains and doing sports at Yosemite made me the person and athlete I am today.”
“When I compete,” Riley adds, “I compete for my family as well as my hometown and everyone who grew up in a small town with big dreams.”
When she wasn’t making straight A’s at YHS , Riley focused mostly on soccer and volleyball. She only ran track her sophomore year. “I stopped to concentrate on volley,” she says.
Riley didn’t really start her track and field career until she got to Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. During her second year at Cuesta, the former Badger set records in winning the national junior college heptathlon title.
She went on to compete for Long Beach State and, after graduating in 2017, decided to take a short break from competition.
“Riley was nudged by the universe” to continue training for 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics, says her mother, Roxy Schultz-Cook. “She recognized that her talents can take her to the next level.”
Riley will be flying to Talence, France next week to compete in a prestigious, pre-Olympic event called Decastar. In July, she will be sprinting and leaping in the U.S. National Championships in Des Moines.
A two-day competition, the heptathlon combines the 100-meter hurdles, 200-meter sprint, 800-meters run, javelin throw, shot put, long jump and high jump. Each event is scored individually and then scores are combined to determine the winner.
Unlike single-event athletes, heptathlon competitors “have to be good at all seven events all in the same meet,” says Roxy. “It takes hours and hours of training and dedication.”
Her parents, Roosevelt and Roxy Schultz-Cook, have started a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $10,000 to help defer some of Riley’s training and travel expenses. She also needs her own javelin and shot put because she had been using loaners.
As of Wednesday afternoon, June 12, donations to the GoFundMe account had reached more than $1,800.
“Roosevelt and I have and will continue to provide as much as we can,” Roxy writes on the GoFundMe page. “[But] we need to reach outside our means to look for additional resources,” Roxy adds. “We humbly wanted to throw it out there to all [Riley’s] supporters and future fans that if anyone is interested and able to assist with a donation, she and we would greatly appreciate it!”
Riley says she plans to report out on how all contributions are used to help support her Olympic quest.
Follow her pursuit of Olympic glory at #TEAMRILEY #RELEASETHEBEAST, @rileycooks.