Cooper runs, jumps her way to 400-meter hurdles title

Julie Thompson

In last year’s Texas Relays, Angele Cooper won the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 56.52 seconds, one of the fastest in the country that season. On Saturday, the Texas junior again won the 400 hurdles, this time in 57.19, but to her, there was no comparison — her 2011 finish was much more meaningful.

That’s because her brother traveled all the way from California to watch Cooper run.

“He is really supportive,” she said. “I really wanted to do well for my brother; he is my heart.”

Before the race began, Cooper requested that her brother be standing at the third turn of the track. She knew she would be struggling on the last stretch of the gruelling 400 and wanted to see her brother as she hit the final straightaway.

Coming into the third turn, she was in fourth place. When she looked up and saw her brother, he cheered her on and gave her a nod. Cooper picked up speed through the curve, hit her stride after the first hurdle and came back to win on the final straight.

“I was about to break down, but then I looked at my brother, and he just did this nod, and I was like, ‘OK,’” she said. “Then I shifted to another gear that I didn’t know I had.”

While her brother’s presence inspired her during this particular race, he is also a constant source of encouragement for Cooper.

“He really helps me to stay focused and grounded and to not give up because sometimes it’s really easy for me to get discouraged,” she said.

Cooper was followed by Janeil Bellille from South Plains, teammate Danielle Dowie, Andrea Sutherland of Texas A&M and Georganne Moline of Arizona.

“I knew I was running against the No. 1 girl in the nation, so I tried to study how she ran, and I just used it for my benefit,” Cooper said about Bellille, who has the second-fastest 400-hurdles time in the world this year. “I’m really happy, and my brother is really happy.”

Cooper competed in two events every day of the Relays.

“It feels good because I have been doubling every day this week,” she said. “I wanted to run a faster time than I did [in the 400 hurdles], but I have been running all week so my legs are just tired.”

On Saturday, the Texas women also finished third in the 400-meter relay and the 800-meter relay and second in the 1,600-meter relay.

Freshman Marielle Hall and junior Julie Amthor posted personal bests for first and second places in the 1,500 meters.

On Friday, the Texas sprint medley relay team — composed of Chantel Malone, Briana Nelson, Kendra Chambers and Hall — took third place. Meanwhile, Shanay Briscoe and Victoria Lucas took second and fourth in the high jump, respectively.