After beginning outdoor track during her Junior year at Andover, Co-Captain Lillie Cooper ’21 has established herself as a pivotal member of Andover Girls Outdoor Track & Field, championing the 2018 and 2019 Nepsta Division I championship-winning 4×400-Meter Relay teams. Cooper joined Andover Girls Indoor Track & Field in the winter of her Upper year after two years of playing squash, and she set class and school records during her first season. According to Co-Captain Myra Bhathena ’22, Cooper’s determination, modesty, and compassion inspire her teammates.
Bhathena said, “Lillie is the definition of leading by example. While being the first to cheer loudly for others, Lillie always trains quietly and works hard behind the scenes, not bringing any attention to herself. And then, on race day, she shines, and the entire team can visualize what it means to work hard and succeed. Lillie’s approachability and kindness are what draws people to her and are what makes her the amazing captain she is. Even remotely, I can say with confidence that she is constantly thinking about ways to keep the team connected and make the newest members of our team feel like family.”
Which events in Indoor Track & Field do you compete in? How do you determine which events you run? Do you choose your events based on the best chance of success, or do you choose the events that you enjoy the most?
I’m mainly a [400-Meter] runner and I also do the [4×400-Meter Relay] but I’ve gone down to as short as the [55-Meter.] In my [Junior] year, I started running the [800-Meter.] I started in the distance team, and then, they kept putting me in the [400-Meter,] and I ended up being pretty good at it. They kept putting me in the [400-Meter] and [4×400-Meter Relay] and that’s how I’ve decided to do my events.
Who are some of the people who have guided you throughout your track career?
All of my teammates have really helped me. Track is a really individual sport, but [having] the whole team cheering you on and motivating you in practice helps me get faster every single week. Coach [Patrick] Rielly was really helpful in my Lower year, making a bunch of warmups and workouts for me, and also [Head Coach Rebecca Hession] is really thoughtful in all of the different practices and workouts we do and [in] trying to make me a better athlete.
Before you came to Andover, was there anyone specifically who suggested that you should do Track & Field, or did you just think that running would be fun and decided to try a new sport?
Before Andover, I’ve [played] a lot of sports. I played soccer, lacrosse, tennis, and squash, but I had never really run specifically for a sport. In my [Junior] year, one of my really close friends, who was also my former captain, Sadie Cheston-Harris ’20, had been running before and she said that I should join the team. And I was also looking for a spring sport, so I thought, “why not join track,” and for the past four years, I just stuck with it.
After you finish a race, what’s going through your mind?
After every race, I’m really glad initially that it’s over because it’s definitely really draining, but I always get through all of the races, and it is a really rewarding experience. I always compete in the very last race which is usually the [4×400-Meter Relay], and that’s more of a team race. I usually run the last leg, so after I cross the finish line, it’s a great moment, all of my teammates swarm me and we’re so happy if we win, and I think moments like those keep me coming back to the track each week.
Speaking of different sports, how have those different sports played a role in your leadership? Have they determined how you approached leading a team?
I think being on so many different teams at Andover has really helped me grow into the leadership role. I’ve had amazing captains for every single one of the teams I’ve been a part of. I’m on the soccer team in the fall, and all of the captains have been super motivating and also so supportive of me. I think they really make a great team atmosphere so that’s what I try to be like as a track captain.
You have talked about how your teammates have motivated you to run, but, as a captain, what do you do to motivate them before every meet?
[The team] has a lot of different traditions that we do before practices and before meets, so we always do our special warmup where we have this cheer that we do. I think that gets people really motivated, and also we have this tradition where we all do jumping-jacks in a circle and then we come together as a team, and usually one of the captains [gives] a speech. I think that when I was a lowerclassman, hearing the captains do that really brought the energy of the team way up. I think that that’s something that we all as captains try to do. For individual people, I am always trying to cheer people on and give them a pep-talk right before a race, and also cheer them on as they’re racing and trying to push them to the finish line. [This encouragement] has definitely been really helpful for me when other people do that, so I try to do that for others.
Editor’s Note: Lillie Cooper is a Sports Editor for The Phillipian.