In his second career meet for Rowan University, senior hurdler Bobby Cooks nearly broke the school record set by a former rival … who used to run for Rowan!
Cooks ran 8.12 to win the 60-meter hurdles at the Lehigh Fast Times Before Finals Invitational at Rauch Fieldhouse in Bethlehem, Pa.
That is only 15-100ths of a second off the Rowan school record of 7.98 set last year by David Benjamin, when he won the final at NCAA Division 3 nationals in Naperville, Ill.
Cooks placed sixth in that race after a nation-leading 7.90 in the trials while competing for Aurora College in Illinois. Benjamin graduated from Rowan (although he does have a year of eligibility remaining) but passed the high hurdles torch to Cooks, his long-time rival, who transferred in for the fall session.
So Rowan lost the NCAA Division 3 national champion and added the only hurdler in the country to run faster than him last winter!
What a cool story!
Cooks is ranked No. 2 in the nation in Division 3 in the early going this winter, behind only Connor Troyer of Mount Union College. Troyer ran 8.07 at the Mount Union Toy Drive Invite at Peterson Fieldhouse on Mount Union’s campus. in Alliance, Ohio. Troyer is a 400 intermediate hurdles All-America, having placed sixth at nationals last spring – five spots behind the winner, current Rowan senior Anthony Salemo.
Even without Benjamin, Rowan has the makings of a tremendous shuttle hurdles team. Freshmen Juan Alejandro of Perth Amboy and Tyler Garland of Deptford (an outdoor soph) have both run sub-8.50, and sophomore Matt Grillo of Mainland Regional has run 8.52 already this winter. All three are ranked between No. 28 and 30 nationally in Division 3. Alejandro and Garland are the No. 4 and 5 freshmen.
Alejandro placed second at Group 4 states last spring behind only East Orange All-America Cory Poole. Garland was state Group 2 champ in 2016 before competing last spring at Gloucester County College, where he placed second at JUCO nationals at Howard Community College in Columbia, Md. Grillo, an All-America decathlete in high school and NJAC decathlon champ last spring, was state Group 3 high hurdles champ outdoors in 2016.
Cooks was a five-time All-America at Aurora, finishing as high as second in the high hurdles at indoor nationals his freshman year. He was also a 23-foot long jumper at Aurora, located about 45 miles west of Chicago.
Cooks prepped at McArthur High in Hollywood, Fla., where he placed third as a senior in the 36-inch 110 highs in 14.36 at the state meet held at North Florida University in Jacksonville.
So his track journey has taken him from the Atlantic Coast of Florida to suburban Chicago and now to Glassboro, where he’ll have a year of eligibility both indoors and outdoors.
Next for Cooks and Rowan is the Great Dane Classic a week from Saturday at the Ocean Breeze Center on Staten Island.