Coronavirus: Dayton thrower saddened as career comes to abrupt end

Lilly Cook was a two-time A-10 champion in javelin

Lilly Cook experienced a birthday to remember March 12 — for all the wrong reasons.

The day the sports world stopped spinning brought an end to Cook's track career at the University of Dayton. She's a redshirt junior who could return next season, but after four years in college, she's ready to move on with her life.

This would have been her big year. That made the NCAA’s decision to cancel the spring sport season because of the COVID-19 crisis hurt even more.

“I was with my team, and we were having a taco dinner,” Cook said. “We all knew school had been cancelled at that point. We were kind of waiting to see what sports would be cancelled.”

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When the news finally came, Cook said, “It was really sad. We were all crying together. But a lot of (her teammates) were upset that I was a senior, and they knew I most likely wouldn’t be coming back.”

Cook, who’s from Dallastown Area High School and Teays Valley, Pa., will leave UD with a stellar resume despite getting to compete in only two outdoor seasons. She set a school record (41.82 meters) in the javelin in her first meet as a freshman in 2017 and broke her own record a year later with a throw of 48.99 meters. She won the Atlantic 10 championship in the javelin in 2017 and 2018.

“We appreciate everything Lilly Cook has brought this team,” wrote Dayton assistant coach Kevin Gilhuly in an Instagram post. “She will be greatly missed, as well as our other seniors graduating this year. She was someone who always made the practice fun and left everyone laughing even when everyone’s abs were in pain. She was such a dominant competitor and broke so many records that it’s horrible she didn’t finish out the way she wanted to her senior year.”

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Cook did compete in the shot put in indoor season this past winter and had fun doing it, but that was not her big event. She had competed in her specialty, the javelin, since June of 2018. She had shoulder surgery after that season and missed the 2019 outdoor season. Shoulder pain affected her during her sophomore season.

“I did well, just like my freshman year, but I was in so much pain, I could usually only do a couple throws at a time,” Cook said. “I would take three or four throws and then have to call it quits because I had a lot of stuff wrong in my shoulder. I had a few different kind of tears. Coming back and not having any pain when I threw was really exciting. I wasn’t hitting my PRs (in practice), but knowing there was no pain, we knew I was going to be able to throw so much further.”

Cook may continue competing in independent competitions. She still has her javelin. She packed it up with everything else she had on campus when school closed. Her sister drove to Dayton and filled up her car with Cook’s stuff, too. Then they drove eight hours home to Pennsylvania.

Just like that, the college experience ended for Cook. She’ll complete her degree in international business management in May and has already started looking for jobs.

“I was upset about school and friend and classes,” Cook said, “but I was mostly upset by the sports thing.”

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