May 20, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Determination pays off with a CIF title for Portola track standout Rider Cooper

Rider Cooper competes in a meet this season for Portola. (Photo courtesy Lisa Chen).

It’s been quite a senior season for Portola High School track standout Rider Cooper.

Cooper captured the Division 1 400-meter title Saturday at the CIF Track and Field Finals at Moorpark High School with a time of 47.37.

“He is the second seed going into CIF Masters this weekend at Moorpark High School, he also helped our 4×100 relay qualify to Masters and he was the top seed in the 200-meters but we elected not to run it because his leg was bothering him and we didn’t want to risk causing an injury,” said Portola Coach Cale Kavanaugh.

Cooper has shown his talents in other sports too.

“Rider came to Portola as a baseball and football player,” Kavanaugh said. “I first discovered him the spring of his sophomore year when he was running with the football team and he ran down one of my CIF finalists who was also a football player.

“We worked out a deal with Coach Bryan Resnick, our baseball coach, so that we could have him do both sports in the spring his junior year. The arrangement gave baseball higher priority and so he didn’t race much for us in the regular season last year.”

But he was able to compete in the Orange County Championships last year and in his first ever open 400 he won the county title and almost broke the county record. Cooper went on to break the Pacific Coast League record in the 200 and 400 and 4×400 but his season was cut short because he pulled his hamstring at CIF prelims in the 200, Kavanaugh explained.

Cooper returned this season more determined to accomplish his goals.

“He came back to track after his senior football season with a fire and motivation to make the most of his abilities,” Kavanaugh said. “Still splitting time with baseball, we worked out a new deal where we could train more for track which yielded big results for us.”

Cooper is currently ranked in the top five in the state in the 100, 200 and 400 and he captured second at the Arcadia Invitational in the 400, the coach said.

The Portola runner also holds the school record for Portola in the 100, 200, 400, 4×100, 4×200, 4×400 and he is the county leader in the 400. He was unable to compete at OC Championships this year because of illness.

Due to his success in track and field, Cooper has earned a full track scholarship to Cal State Fullerton, according to Kavanaugh

“Rider is a great kid and a caring teammate,” Kavanaugh said. “He shows up to practice ready to work hard and he is the rather athlete who has both the talent and the consistent willingness to put in the work in order to make the most of his abilities. He has … abilities to make some of the fastest kids in the country look like they’re standing still and we’ve only just scraped the surface of what he is capable of. Cal State Fullerton is very lucky to have him and he will be a name that you’ll be hearing more about in the future.” 

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