Besides dealing with new surroundings in his first track and field season at Bishop O'Dowd High, Jamal Cooks had a somewhat unique challenge -- incorporating many athletes who competed deep into March on winter sports teams.
With the Dragons' girls basketball team winning the California Interscholastic Federation Division III state championship in late March, and the girls soccer team winning the North Coast Section Division II championship in late February, a number of athletes had a late start to the spring season. But Cooks, the director of track and field at O'Dowd, was able to direct the team toward a late May peak culminating with a NCS Meet of Champions girls team title.
"It's a testament to the kids buying into the program, taking the information and being able to execute," Cooks said. "I'm ecstatic about it."
At the Meet of Champions, O'Dowd ended James Logan's streak of nine straight girls team titles. The Dragons achieved the victory by scoring in six events, including winning both the 400 and 1,600 meter relays. Seven different girls were part of those relays in the Meet of Champions finals.
"You never know when someone will need to step up," said Cooks, who will have most of his NCS Meet of Champions scorers back for next season.
At Skyline, Cooks' teams won 10 straight Oakland Section girls track and field team titles between 2002-2011. But it's a different scenario in the larger NCS.
"The sheer numbers is
But Cooks still knows how to get his athletes ready for big meets.
"One of the most important things I told the kids was to go out there, do your best, remember what you've been taught, and at the end of the day, it's about competition. This is the test. I think we did pretty well," Cooks said.
"He's a great coach," said sophomore Gabriella Cantrell, who qualified in four events for the CIF state championships. "He's very encouraging and he makes sure that we are focused and handle our business on the track."