Cook Leads in the Water

Amanda Pollard

The women’s rowing practice has the energy level similar to that of a championship basketball game. Many would agree that the reason for the constant upbeat attitude, so rare in a group of 50 women, is due, in no small part, to one of the team’s youngest varsity members: Kellie Cook.

The freshman nursing major came to Sacramento from Seattle, Wash., after falling in love with the team on an official visit her senior year in high school.

“They were just so nice and happy. Everyone was really excited to see me. I knew right away it wouldn’t be hard to fit in,” Cook said.

The women welcoming attitude wasn’t the only thing that drew Cook in; the fact that the entire team pledged sobriety during the season was something that intrigued her.

Cook grew up in Seattle and loves the outdoors, which is another reason she chose to attend Sacramento State.

“The atmosphere here is pretty similar. Plus, there are a million trees and I love them; I wasn’t willing to leave that,” Cook said.

Once she settled on a school, Cook was able to pursue one of her greatest passions: giving back to the community.

“I’ve never been interested in partying, so it was a huge selling point. People don’t realize it affects you during the season and it’s so cool our team does this together. Athletics is so important to me; I’ve been given some great opportunities and I don’t want to mess that up,” Cook said.

“I feel like so many people help me out and give me opportunities, and I’m in a position to give back, so I should,” Cook said.

Cook is not the only member of her team to have this passion, and the similarities have allowed the team to become very involved with the community.

“Volunteering with our team has been fun; we get a lot of help from the community so it’s cool that, at the drop of a hat, we have 50 girls that can just go out and do something. That’s a big group,” Cook said.

Friend and fellow teammate Holly Hopkins feels that Cook will be able to step up next year into a leadership position and provide the team with even more opportunities.

“I think it’s great for our team to give back. Kellie’s interest is awesome and it will be nice to do it again next year,” Hopkins said.

Cook’s interest in the community didn’t only stem from her care-giving demeanor but also from her home life.

Cook’s mother Tami always required her children to be involved with the community from a young age.

“She used to spend her Saturdays at the zoo or children’s hospital volunteering; she has always been like that. I think it’s partly family because (the kids) were always required to do that, but Kellie always loved it,” Tami Cook said.

Cook’s passion for helping people transfers into her future plans to become a nurse and ultimately travel the world to help a greater number of people.

“Eventually what I want to do … is Doctors Without Borders, and nursing is definitely something I will pursue so I can give back to people who need help. I don’t really just want to sit and look at a computer all day.”

Cook was able to begin her dreams in high school when she went to Puerto Rico on a mission trip, built a house with Habitat for Humanity in Oregon and fixed up a church and worked with children in Chicago.

Cook then participated in numerous community service endeavors with her team that included planting and trimming trees and feeding the homeless.

“Every time we get together we have so much fun. We are getting to know each other, which is difficult with so many girls and such separate practices. But when we are volunteering, we are out there helping people together, and bonding,” Cook said.

However sunny a disposition Cook may have, even she recognizes that it’s difficult to always have a positive outlook on things.

“The thing that keeps me going is that I know how lucky I am. We have some amazing athletes that are injured and they would love nothing more to be out there. I am so lucky,” Cook said.

Cook also feels that the facilities are something most students take for granted, or don’t even recognize as being there.

“You get on that water and it is just so gorgeous. I wish everyone could experience it. A lot of people don’t know the Aquatic Center is there and it’s awesome that I get to see that every morning. It makes everything worth it,” Cook said.

Hopkins feels that even when Cook isn’t having a great day her attitude toward teammates is enough to lift spirits.

“In the fall we raced in a pair,” said Hopkins. “We had already had a race that day so we were both pretty exhausted and it was iffy because we had never rowed together so I was kind of nervous. But she was so calm and collected and had all her stuff together it helped me race well and we ended up having a great time.”

Cook’s positive attitude is something teammates enjoy as a constant every time they get together, in addition to the famous cookies she and Hopkins provide.

“It’s my families recipe; my mom kind of put it together and we found out Kellie loved to bake last year so we started cooking together,” Hopkins said.

“They are chocolate chip and really cool. We always have baking parties,” Cook said.

The cookies aren’t the only comforting thing that Cook provides for her team. Co-captain Aimee Chenard feels that Cook is a great asset to the team.

“She is definitely one of the core people on the team. Whether she and Holly are bringing cookies or doing other little things, she is always bringing us up. The team would be at a loss if she wasn’t around,” Chenard said.

Chenard feels that when the team is having a particularly difficult practice or things are coming out as expecting, Cook is always the one that sees the silver lining.

“She reminds everyone that there is something out there to work for,” Chenard said.

Cook misses her home but will remain in Sacramento until she graduates and hopes to enter into nursing program in order to continue her dreams of helping those less fortunate.

“I love Seattle but Sac has done so much for me just by being able to come here and row and meet the team. Whatever way I can find to help and travel will be the way I end up going,” Cook said.

Amanda Pollard can be reached at [email protected]