Mitch Cook’s senior season didn’t play out quite the way the Floyd County big man had expected.
An ACL injury sustained during a preseason scrimmage kept Cook off the football field in the fall, and then the cancellation of spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented him from going for a third state title in the shot put for the Buffaloes’ track and field team.
Despite those senior year setbacks, the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Cook had already made a strong enough impression during his high school career to catch the attention of the track coaches at Youngstown State, which competes in the Horizon Conference.
Prior to the cancellation of the spring sport season Cook signed to continue his track career with the Ohio university beginning next fall.
“I’d never even heard of [Youngstown State] before, but their coach texted me on Instagram, and they were the first coaches to text me after my [ACL] injury,” Cook said. “I eventually went up there and fell in love with it.”
It’s likely the Penguins first noticed Cook during his sophomore year in 2018, when he claimed his first state title in the shot put with a personal best throw of 54 feet at the Class 2 outdoor state track meet.
“That was definitely the highlight of my high school career. It was a big moment for me,” Cook said of his 2018 win.
Cook kept the momentum going in his junior campaign, as he again had the top throw to win the state shot put title at the Class 2/1 indoor state meet and then placed third in the spring at the state outdoor meet.
Track and field, however, wasn’t the only athletic accomplishment Cook achieved while at Floyd County. He also played a significant role for the Buffaloes in football as a three-year starter on both the offensive and defensive line.
“He is a great young man. He’s been a rock for us over the years and excelled on both sides of the football,” Floyd County football and track coach Winfred Beale said.
Cook was looking to lead the way in the trenches for the Buffaloes one more year as a senior, but those plans changed in August when he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee during a preseason scrimmage against Cave Spring.
Beale said even with the injury, he was impressed with how the senior still looked to contribute and make his teammates successful.
“He was just about at every practice helping out with the young offensive and defensive lineman and helping any way he could,” Beale said.
Even with the disappointing start to the season, Cook said it eventually turned into a positive experience for him, which included watching his teammates knock off Radford 14-12 on senior night in the Buffaloes’ home finale. That helped Floyd County earn a spot in the Region 2C playoffs.
“I figured it was my time to step up and help, but it was still one of the funniest years I’ve had,” Cook said.
Cook’s ACL injury prevented him from defending his indoor shot put title this winter as he continued his recovery, but he was cleared in March by doctors to take part in outdoor track just before the spring sport season was suspended by the VHSL.
“That was the only thing that kept me going. I was getting hyped up for one more sport,” Cook said. “[The suspension] really shocked me. I was totally devastated, but I figured it was for the best.”
While Cook now looks to put his full attention on the shot put in college, he hasn’t ruled out a possible return to the football field as well.
“My first year my focus will be on track and rehabbing my knee,” Cook said. “Then my second year ... I might try to walk-on in football.”