Cookie skis onto the scene
ASPEN – Less than a month ago, Stacey Cook was hoping for the opportunity to compete in a couple of races against the best skiers in the world. As a NorAm champion, Cook, who hails from Truckee, Calif., only had a few World Cups on her history list. She was crossing her fingers to break into the top 30 this year. Now, even the Austrian team is cheering for her. Last week, the 21-year-old arrived at Lake Louise, Alberta, prepared to make the most out of her opportunities to race in two World Cup downhill events. She took sixth in the training run, but didn’t think much of it. On race day, however, she landed 10th place. The next day she started wearing bib No. 51. She finished eighth. “I was really excited, obviously,” said Cook Friday, after the World Cup super-G in Aspen. While Cook finished 40th Friday, she has a feeling that the top 10s at Lake Louise will not be her last. When she launched down that training run there before putting down her best career results to date, she didn’t sway from the formula she had always employed in previous races.”In the training run, I didn’t do anything special,” she said. “So, I knew on race day that I didn’t have to do anything special to be fast. That’s what I did. I just skied like I knew how to ski without making any mistakes.”
She stepped into the starting gate at Aspen with her nerves in check. It was her first World Cup race on American soil, but she didn’t let it get to her head. She had yogurt and granola for breakfast, and slid into the start gate without any expectations. Wearing bib No. 49, Cook knew she would have some ruts with which to deal. But teammate Lindsey Kildow gave her the course report, and from that point on it was eyes on the road and “charge.”First Cup in America”I raced here for NorAms, but it was a long time ago and I didn’t do very well, so I didn’t really want to remember it,” Cook said. “Lindsey told me just to attack the top and that’s what I did. At the bottom, the snow had gotten a little slicker, so there were a lot of bumps. It was hard to keep it going. Girls with more experience pulled it off at the bottom.”Cook knew the run wasn’t one of her best, but when she skidded to a halt in the finish area, she did so to more applause than has ever greeted her after a race. “Because this was my first time racing a World Cup in America, it was really loud … even though I didn’t do that well,” she said. “The Austrians were cheering for me too, so I guess I have another fan base there.”This speaks a world to Cook’s success, as the Austrians aren’t an easy crowd to impress.
“I think they like underdogs a little bit,” Cook said. “They’re so used to being on the top all the time.”Humble as she may be and rationalizing as she may, Cook has already made a name for herself this season. And in such cases, it doesn’t hurt when her nickname is “Cookie.””Going into Lake Louise, I don’t think anyone had a clue who I was,” she said. “Then the last day, I think almost all the racers and all the coaches were like, ‘Good job, Cookie.'”Olympics still a long shotA month ago, Cook was nowhere near thinking about going to the Olympics. The U.S. only takes four skiers to compete in each event, and qualifying depends strictly on World Cup points. A month ago, Cook didn’t have any to speak of. Now, with teammates such as Kildow, Julia Mancuso and Kirsten Clark, who regularly finish in the top 10, along with many others who have also proven their worth, Cook won’t allow a couple of outstanding World Cup finishes compel her to start counting her chickens.”It’s just two races,” she said. “My outlook doesn’t include anything about the Olympic team. Anything could happen in any race. I don’t really care about results right now. I just want to ski well. You take it all in perspective. You’ve got to be happy (with top-10 results), but you have to move on because it’s a long season.”
That said, as far as her team, competitors and coaches are concerned, Cook has reached a new level.”Last year, she was skiing well in training. In (Lake Louise), she fired into the top 10. She did a hell of a job up there,” said U.S. Women’s head coach Patrick Riml. “The way she skied was unbelievable and it was basically another surprise for us.”Riml said that his coaching for Cook has not changed, but that she has now established herself as one of the team’s top-10 finishers.”And there’s more to come,” he said. “We can just hope that her results carry into more races.”Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado