Unlike most athletes, cross-country runner Nate Cook (‘15) does not partake in his sport for the thrill of victory. In fact, Cook does not even care about winning, and he started his sophomore year with little motivation to continue with cross-country. Yet, as a sophomore on varsity, he has become one of the fastest runners for the Vikings.
Cook did not start with instant enjoyment for cross-country. In fact it was quite the opposite.
“At first I didn’t really enjoy it that much, but as I kept running I started to enjoy it more and more,” Cook said.
At the start of his freshman year, Cook doubted that he would continue with the sport as a sophomore. However, by the end of the year, through hard work and determination, he had dramatically improved.
“Nate is this surprising new cross-country runner,” older brother Ben Cook (‘13) said. “His performance this year is a bit surprising considering that last year he was just another face in the crowd.”
Now he has started his sophomore season, and his newfound interest in the sport and hard workouts have given him an edge over other athletes.
Like every other cross-country runner, Cook goes directly to the track every day after school, and from there he starts his practice. However, unlike some of the other athletes, Cook does an extensive workout. After running from Palo Alto High School to Lake Lagunita on the Stanford campus, he runs all the way over to the Dish, where he then proceeds to run the upper trail. On the way back to Paly, he runs around Lake Lagunita. After all that, he finally calls it a day.
He does this same routine every day and enjoys the challenge of the strenuous run. At cross-country practices, the athletes choose to run at their own pace and decide the distance that they cover, but Cook has an ability to push himself hard.
“You have to really want to get good at it,” Cook said. “Once you have more of a passion for it, then you are motivated to run.”
Cook has an ability that many athletes lack. In the words of his brother, he “is stubbornly disciplined” and “forces himself to seek improvement whenever he has the chance.” This internal drive has led to fast improvement.
For Cook, though, success is not all about winning.
“I just feel really good while I am running. It is just addicting,” he said.
Although he does not run for the competition, prosperity in the sport has followed the fun. Cook recently won the JV race at the annual Gunn High School alumni meet with a time that made him Paly’s fastest runner. Cook’s fast improvement and standout performances have not gone unnoticed. After his performance at Gunn, teammates like Benjamin May (‘13) took notice.
“We all knew that [Cook] had a lot in him, but I think everyone was slightly surprised by how well he did today,” May said.
Cook was brought up in an athletic family, and is encouraged by his family members to exercise and stay in peak physical condition. In particular, his older brother encourages him to work out, and also tries to guide him in certain areas where he is more experienced and wise.
“I try to be a mentor in some aspects of his life,” Ben said.
Ben tries to guide him in “the things that he is unsure of that I [Ben] have already gone though and are a little bit more illuminated for me.”
Cook is constantly looking to improve his running. As a sophomore he hopes to gain varsity race experience this year that will help him in the future.
“I don’t have that much racing experience like some of the older seniors,” Cook said.
This lack of experience has motivated him to strive to improve on his times and to push himself every day in practice. This year Cook has a mile time of 4:48 and a two mile time of 10:51, which make him one of the main competitors on the Paly team.
As the season continues, Cook enjoys running to keep in shape. If top finishes in races come along with that, all the better.