Oak Park — Cameron Cooper is developing into a world-class athlete, a threat to become an NCAA champion and on pace to possibly one day compete in the Olympics.
Cooper displayed his talent in the 20-and-under USA Track and Field Junior Nationals in Sacramento, California last month, topping the field — which included a pair of college freshmen phenoms — to win the 800-meter championship with a time of 1 minute, 47.5 seconds.
Cooper’s time ranked as the sixth-fastest time in high school history.
“I had a pretty good weekend, got two PRs (personal records) so that was good,” said Cooper, who recently graduated from Oak Park High. “I’m used to running with fast people so I knew I could run at the times that I had practiced for. I just went out and did it. I ran a 1:48.6 in the semis.
“It’s a confidence boost, but I still feel like a fish in the pond because a lot of those guys are super fast. It makes you stay humble. I ran against Terrell Jackson and Daniel Nixon, real good college runners.”
Jackson ran the fastest time for a Clemson freshman this season at 1:48.01 and Nixon posted the second-best 800 meter time in Mississippi State history at 1:50.01, second only to national champion Brandon McBride.
Now, it’s on to Lima, Peru for Cooper (5-foot-9, 155 pounds) where he will compete for Team USA in the Pan-Am Junior Games in late July.
And, yes, he does have dreams of running in the Olympics.
“Definitely,” said Cooper, who had a 3.3 grade-point-average and plans to study business and finance at LSU. “I feel I’m on pace. Right now, I just want to try and run a real fast time my first year at LSU, like 1:43 hopefully.”
Cooper, who won the 800 meters in the Division 1 state finals as a senior for Oak Park in June, has developed into one of the premier runners in the country while working under the guidance of longtime coach Robert Lynch.
“Cameron has the chance to be an Olympian if he continues to progress and get great coaching like he has with a world class coach in Robert Lynch,” said Oak Park girls coach Brandon Jiles, who accompanied Cooper in Sacramento.
Cooper took advantage of great coaching from Lynch, showing in his dramatic improvement from his sophomore year where he placed 10th at states with a time of 1:55.29 to winning the title the next two years, with a time of 1:51.68 his junior year and 1:51.22 this past season.
“He just gives me a workout and I run the pace,” Cooper said of Lynch, who coached Detroit Cass Tech football coach Thomas Wilcher in his preteen years and helped him develop habits that led him to becoming an All-American hurdler.
Lynch is proud of Cooper, not only of his talent, but also how he has stayed humble and hungry.
“I’ve had guys who were quite good athletes in the past, but not this fast,” Lynch said. “I was hoping that he’d break the national record because I had one, Kenneth Ferguson (Detroit Mumford, 2002), who broke the national record in the 400 hurdles (49.38) and still has that record. And, Brandon (Jiles) was one of my best half-milers too, then ran at Eastern Michigan.
“I’ve trained him (Cooper) for three years and it’s mind-boggling how much he’s developed. He came here running about a 2:04 as a ninth grader. We’ve put in a lot of time. We usually put together a workout chart for them to run a certain time and see if they can manage the time and he’s been progressing every year.”