Tara Cockerill, ranked first in shot put, uses sports to cope


Photo by Kaitlin Meister
 

Kaitlin Meister
Assistant Editor

Briar Cliff senior Tara Cockerill is currently ranked first in the nation for shot put; while this is an incredible accomplishment, it is only a small part of her story.

The 21-year-old from Spalding, Neb. had to grow up rather quickly after doctors had discovered a tumor in her mother’s brain.  

“I was 15 and the only one in the house”, says Cockerill, “I took care of her, I took care of me, and I took care of everything in [our] house.”  

Cockerill, a nursing major at BCU, says that she used sports as a way to cope with her home life.  

“I have a great support system in my coaches, teammates and friends,” says Cockerill. “You have to have that to make it through—and I do.”

Cockerill says that she has been competing in track and field for ten years. She ran a few races and tried high jump when she was in junior high, but throwing is where she shines.

“My sophomore, [year of college] I was ranked ninth in the nation for both indoor and outdoor, my junior year I was ranked fourteenth for both in and out and now this year I am ranked first. I am still in shock.”

Cockerill is the only one in her family who has competed at the collegiate level.  She says while growing up she never saw herself being where she is today.

Cockerill holds many records—both at her high school and at Briar Cliff, including shot put and discus records for both indoor and outdoor.

“I have progressed over these four years and I would have never guessed that I would be nationally ranked.”

Cockerill says besides her mom and coaches, her role model was a six-year-old girl that she used to care for and play with who died from leukemia a few years ago.

“She was an inspiration to me,” says Cockerill. “She was kind of like a little sister to me.  I wanted to keep going on and prove to myself and to everyone else that I am worth something.” 

Cockerill was hit again with a difficult challenge her sophomore year in college after she received a call from her mother saying she had been diagnosed with another brain tumor.  

“When it happened, it was hard,” says Cockerill, “after I got off the phone I broke down, but you have to pick yourself up and go one day at a time.”

Cockerill was by her mother’s bedside while she was in the hospital and took care of her after surgery until she returned to school to compete in nationals.  She says the doctors got 99.9 percent of the tumor and her mother is currently healthy, with no signs of the tumor returning.  

Cockerill has also had to battle her own injuries.  She has to pay special attention to her back by taking extra time to heat and stretch after hurting it in the beginning of the season. 

“With throwing you have so many other injuries,” says Cockerill. “My fingers I bend back almost every day, I have shin splints, you name it, almost everything is the matter with me.”

Cockerill is also a type one diabetic.

Despite her injuries, Cockerill does not complain. She says she wants to finish in the top eight in the nation and be an All-American as well as continue to set records. 

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Submitted by braunschweigc on Wed, 02/13/2013 - 16:18

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