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May 2, 2008

South Carolina thrower Jason Cook (Bristow, Va.) will graduate May 10 with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Criminal Justice, but because he was redshirted his freshman year he will return next season to aid the Gamecock track and field team. Cook will do it on his own tab, as a few weeks ago he told head coach Curtis Frye to use his scholarship for someone `so we can be really good and I will take care of myself.’

As he finishes up his finals and gets ready for the SEC Championships in Auburn in a couple weeks, Cook talked about the outdoor season, his goals this season and beyond. This season he has thrown the shot put a team-leading 58′ 6 ¾, an NCAA regional qualifier. He is third on the team with a throw of 169′ 10 in the hammer and tied for second with the discus at 166′ 5.

You gave up your scholarship for next season for the good of the team. Coach Frye called it one of the most unselfish acts he’s ever seen.

Cook: I want us to be top five next year. I want to go out on a winning team. I will work on a degree in Criminal Justice next year.

I need to get a master’s degree and a law degree so it’s another step. I was going to wait, but since throwing has been going so well I have decided to stay and work to be an All-American. We have the potential to be really good next year. We are losing some really good runners, but we aren’t losing any throwers. We all have to come together.

What are your goals this outdoor season?

Cook: I have already qualified regionally in the shot put and I would like to advance to the NCAA Championships. I have to be top 16 to make the NCAAs so I have some work to do. I would also like to regionally qualify in the discus and the hammer.

Have you thought about what it will take to do that?

Cook: I have two meets to focus on qualifying for regional in the hammer and the discus. I don’t really know what it will take. It seems like the more I study for classes and finals, the more I will have to throw in practice to counter-balance it all. We have been lifting and throwing to gear ourselves for the SEC Championships – that’s where we want to peak.

Do you like training like that – for the goal of competing well at the SEC Championships?

Cook: No, not until we get to the SEC Championships because everytime you throw farther you want to throw more and more. If you don’t see results in the middle of the season, it’s hard to get down on yourself because you don’t see results because your body is tired from so much lifting and practice.

But then once you get to the SEC meet you feel more rested. Things come together a lot easier. The practice throws are easier. You feel more confident. It’s hard to put it all together. You have to keep focused on the same goal. I have been focusing on getting my right leg around and not focusing on throwing farther and farther because I will start rushing things. You have to throw technically sound and not worry about throwing far right now. I have to relax. The better technically sound you are and the more focused you are, the easier distances will come.

My sophomore year I scored indoors and it felt so good. I started thinking about throwing far and it messed up me, but I have learned to calm down. I know I can throw 61 feet and make nationals. It’s good to know you can pull the trigger, but you have to know when to do the right thing.

What do you want to do when you finish competing?

Cook: I would like to go into Federal Law Enforcement and work in the DEA. Maybe work for the HRT – the Hostage Response team. It’s an anti-terrorism team. They pull people from the Navy Seals and you have to have a law degree to do it. They are the most highly educated and trained law enforcement in the country.

How did you come to the conclusion that’s what you want to do?

Cook: I don’t really know. People think because I am big (6-2) I am a bully, but I am quiet, reserved and don’t start fights. A person with my size who knows what is right and wrong should stand up for people who can’t. Some people are so smart, but they don’t use it the right way. My parents raised me the right way. Since I have been in college and out my own, I’ve realized it’s the most important thing. I want to help people.

What’s your favorite part of being an athlete at USC?

Cook: I don’t really know. The people that I have met – 95% of my friends are student-athletes. It’s a good support group. I roomed with Dave (Zaycek) and Derek (Pressley) my freshman year and Derek, Eric (Heymann) and Nick (Lytle) my sophomore year. I didn’t have any friends when I came here so the track team was an instant group of friends and they helped me out a lot.

Derek and Dave are my best friends. I will never forget when Derek and I got in a fight our freshman year because we were stressed out. We laugh about it now.

Who was the cook in that dorm room?

Cook: The Bates cafeteria people! We knew how, but we never did. One time Dave cooked some chicken that had been in the refrigerator for like 3-4 months and ate it. He was really sick for 3-4 days. I knew it was bad and so did Derek, but we still watched him do. We thought it was funny, but Coach Sergent was really ticked at us because Dave couldn’t practice the next day. We did a lot of dumb stuff our freshman year, but it made us closer because we were all going through the same thing.

What’s some advice you would give to incoming freshman?

Cook: You actually have to study and go to class. It’s not like high school. You have to get through the first semester – that’s the hardest thing to do.

Are you glad you came to USC?

Cook: Yeah! At first I didn’t like USC because I didn’t know anybody, but I have made the best friends. I love the school, the people, the weather. Other than the bad drivers in Columbia, it’s been great. All the coaches have been here to help me out. They really have been there. Coach Sergent has been like a big brother or a mentor that I have never had before.