Life at Loughborough has focused Gainsborough hurdler on the great outdoors

Athlete Heather Cooke (w130604-2c)
Athlete Heather Cooke (w130604-2c)

A Gainsborough athlete has become a lover of the great outdoors, in a bid to make a successful jump from Under 17 to Under 20 competition.

Heather Cooke has recently moved to Loughborough to study and train under highly respected coach Nick Dakin.

And along with adapting to a new training plan, workload and tough sessions five days per week, she’s having to get used to the idea of abandoning indoor competition – at least for now.

Cooke, who will now be expected to run in the 400m hurdles after tasting success at the 300m distance, is using the time that would normally be dedicated to an indoor campaign to focus soley on getting ready for the outdoor season.

The only indoor event the teenager took part in this winter yielded an encouraging result, however, as she placed fifth out of 15 runners in the Under 20 women’s 400m at the Birmingham Games.

Cooke finished her heat in first place in a time of 61.62 seconds.

Dad Gary admits the transition between age groups will be a difficult one for his daughter.

“It will undoubtedly be tough, running against competitors up to three years older, but it will be an interesting challenge,” he said.

“And it doesn’t stop personal time targets being set.”

Cooke is not only on the Elite Athlete Programme at Loughborough, but also has a place on the British Athletics AASE (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) Programme. This gives athletes aged 16 to 18 the chance to gain qualifications while developing their sporting prowess.

Athletes attend nine days throughout the year, sometimes accompanied by their personal coaches, to take part in workshops that cover nutrition and performance, sports psychology, lifestyle, communication and media, social media and career planning.

The hope is that during the year, athletes will develop a range of skills that will assist them to develop as elte competitors and progress to further education, or go on to gain employment in a related field.

Gary added: “There have been two workshops so far and Heather and us as parents are really enthusiastic about the content and the help it should give her.”