the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Lucy Wainwright ’25 and Chip Genung ’25
During her time at Dartmouth University, Abbey Cooper won seven NCAA D1 Nation Titles in the 3,000 meter, the 5,000 meter, and cross country, and is the only woman in NCAA history to win both the 3,000 meter and the 5,000 meter races. She graduated in 2014 as the most decorated Ivy League track and field and cross country athlete of all time. She competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she gained international spotlight for colliding with another runner and still completing the race with a torn ACL and meniscus. New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin collapsed right in front of her during a 5,000 meter race, taking Cooper down with her.
During that fall, Cooper tore both her meniscus and ACL, yet still helped Nikki Hamblin up and ran the last mile with her. After her injury, Cooper was unable to run for five months, but stated that the hardest part of her recovery was having to get back in form for competition.
Westminster was lucky enough to receive a visit from Ms. Cooper, when she came to the school on Sept. 17 to share her story. The school gathered in Werner Centennial Center to hear her speak about her personal experience with grit and grace, and how it has affected her throughout her running career. We got the opportunity to talk to Abbey following her talk, and asked her a few questions of our own.
We asked if running in the Olympics had always been her dream — if it had always been the goal she focused her training on. She responded by saying that while she did always want to go to the Olympics, the dream was not always to go in running. As a kid and teenager, Abbey was a swimmer. Her goal was to swim in the Olympics, not run in it. This is ironic because, as we learned in her talk, Cooper sustained a serious injury previous to the 2016 Olympics and was unable to train using the method she usually did. Instead of spending hours on the track, she was forced to spend those hours in the pool, strengthening her body by doing laps to avoid further injury by running. Initially her childhood dream was to swim in the Olympics, and there she was, spending most of her time training in Rio in the pool.
Running is a sport centered around mentality—it requires thought and motivation to keep going. Abbey Cooper understands that and she has a method to keep going. When asked what keeps her going in the middle of a race, she responded by saying that she repeats the phrase ‘stay in’ inside her head to encourage her to continue on. She also mentioned that before every race, she visualizes the race and the track in her head, which helps her to see the hard parts of a race in order to mentally prepare for it beforehand.
At the end of the interview Abbey wanted to let the readers know one final thing. She said ‘true grit runs on grace,’ and this is shown everyday in her life, and all the way through her recovery. Abbey Cooper embodies this statement every day, especially throughout her rehabilitation to running.