Sarah Cooley is Woodland Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year


When Sarah Cooley joined the Woodland indoor track team during her sophomore year, she thought the sport was all about running and jumping.
“I didn’t even know what throwing was when I first started track,” Cooley recalled.
By the time the Hawks emerged from the COVID-restricted winter of 2021 and headed to the outdoor track, Woodland coach Jeff Lownds thought Cooley might make a good fit with the heavy objects.
“Once my track coach told me to try javelin, I started to practice all of the throws,” Cooley said. “By the end of my first season, I made All-NVL for all the throws and made it to State Open for javelin. I realized I was good enough to keep going once I met [throwing coach] Rich DeStefano, who helped me advance my career in javelin even more.”
Over the next two years, Cooley further distinguished herself in the field and in the classroom, making her Woodland’s 2023 Female CIAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
She continued her All-NVL pace as a junior during the outdoor season, but she emerged above the crowd as a senior. During the indoor season, she won the NVL and Class S shot put championships, placed third at the State Open, and qualified for the New England championships.
Her final outdoor season was even better: NVL titles in the shot and javelin, third- and fourth-place respective finishes in the Class M shot and javelin, second- and sixth-place respective efforts in the State Open javelin and shot, and All-New England honors thanks to her sixth-place throw in the shot put.
Cooley also holds the school records in the shot put (38 feet, 8¾ inches), discus (109-11) and javelin (116-5).
Cooley acknowledged that staying on top of her challenging school schedule became more difficult as she got better at throwing.
“I would do as much classwork during the school day [as possible], and as soon as I would get home from practice, I would start homework,” she said. “There were many late nights I would stay up just to get my last assignment done. I found it even harder to keep my grades up senior year when I started to pick up my training, but I still managed.”
That success in the classroom led to an offer to throw at Fordham University, which fulfilled Cooley’s goal of going to college in New York City.
“I chose Fordham based on academics first,” Cooley said. “I knew I wanted to go to school in the city, and Fordham aligned with my academic goals. It was also perfect because it aligned with my athletic goals. It ended up being a perfect mix of everything I wanted in a school. The excitement of going to the city and the diversity the school has to offer really appealed to me as well. I’m looking forward to all the opportunities that I will have at Fordham.”
Cooley’s advice to young high school students focuses on finding a balance and soaking in the journey.
“Some advice I would give to the incoming freshmen is don’t forget to enjoy this moment,” she said. “Sports and academics are important, but don’t forget to put yourself first. Sometimes you need to choose sleep over staying up late with schoolwork. Don’t stress too much about sports either. You need to have a good balance of sports, academics and happiness, because if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, it might not be worth it in the end.”