MHS' Cooks has different focus now

By Steve Sell
April 24, 2018

I’ve had the opportunity to interview McPherson High senior Mandi Cooks in the past due mostly to her prowess on the basketball court.

On Monday, I interviewed the well-spoken Cooks again as she is wearing another hat these days — a business woman.

Cooks, through MHS, has an internship with Kasi Morales, director of Go McPherson. And Cooks’ latest task is that she has been made the director of the 5th annual Tour de Trails run, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 12, as part of All Schools Day Weekend.

Cooks, who obviously has a good head for business and is very poised when talking to others, is in charge of promoting the event and covering every detail, no matter how minute.

The race is for runners of all ages, as there are male and female divisions. There is a fee charged and each race has its own price. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third in the two longer races.

There is a 2-mile fun run, as well as 4- and 8-mile runs. Starting time is 8 a.m. at the Meadowlark Trail Head and it’s part of the Central Kansas Conservatory Race Series.

Cooks says there will be incentives to take part in the race, other than for the love of running. There will be water, snacks, music and T-shirts to all competitors supporting the trail.

Cooks has been an All-State basketball player for the Bullpups, though her senior season was interrupted as she had to recover from Achilles surgery in July. Normally an injury like that keeps a player out for 6 to 9 months, but the determined Cooks was back playing in 5 and while she spent most of the season scraping off the rust, she was at her best in the big games, such as the Bullpups’ win over Manhattan in the championship game of the McPherson Invitational and the Class 4A Division I state championship against Miege, the highlight of her career as the Bullpups came from 9 points down with just over 2 minutes to go to tie the mighty Stags, and then won in overtime.

Cooks, for those who may not remember, was the Class 4A high jump state champion her sophomore year, which has earned her an automatic spot on the MHS Wall of Fame, for which she’ll be inducted in December. She has signed to play Division I basketball at the University of Texas-San Antonio, the same school where former Bullpup All-Stater Steve Henson is now the men’s coach.

Cooks is approaching this project with the same competitive spirit that she takes into the athletic arena. She wants it to be a huge success and anything less will be disappointing to her.

“I’ve been going to companies. I’ve been trying to get sponsors and I’ve gotten a lot of money doing that,” she said. “I’ve made flyers and T-shirts. Right now I’m working on marketing it. I thought getting sponsors would be the hard part.”

Cooks has conquered that, now she needs the runners to make the event a success. Generally with events like this there’s a last-minute rush, but she wants to make sure there’s plenty of runners already committed by the 12th.

“All of the money made goes to the trail, preserving it and keeping it healthy, bringing more plants to it,” she said. “The money made here stays in McPherson. It’s helping with our environment. I need to get people out there to save the trail.”

Cooks has been mapping out her future for a long time as she’s proven she’s far more than an athlete.

“This is totally different than what I’m used to doing,” she said. “It’s gone from the basketball court to this. It’s a different focus. You want to beat the odds. You don’t want to fail. In basketball you’re going up against your opponent. You don’t want them to beat you. I take that and it’s the same off the court. I don’t want this to fail. I don’t people not to show up. I want to help the community.”

Cooks can be reached at 785-318-0366 to register or runners may register online at [email protected]

“This project is here to help our community,” she said. “I’ve been give so much exposure to the work force and for future possibilities for a job.”

Cooks works closely with Morales during her internship.

“I help with job postings, the Go McPherson website and Facebook page,” she said. “I try to help her out any way I can. I have learned a lot from her. I love talking with people and working with companies and things like that.”

Cooks will be appearing on the "According to Jim Show" at 12:30 p.m. on May 1 on 96.7 KBBE-FM to discus the event.