Cumberland’s Hooper signs NLI to continue throwing career at Wisconsin

Cumberland’s Hooper signs NLI to continue throwing career at Wisconsin

Retired Cumberland High boys’ track and field coach Tom Kenwood, left, and Clippers throws coach Colin Cabral, right, were among the guests at the National Letter of Intent signing ceremony of Cumberland senior Cole Hooper, center, who will continue his athletic and academic career at the University of Wisconsin this fall. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)

CUMBERLAND – When Cole Hooper delivered a throw of 68 feet, 5½ inches in the 25-pound weight event at the RIIL Indoor Track & Field Championships on Feb. 16, a lot of good things happened to the Cumberland High senior.

For starters, he ended up earning Second-Team All-State honors by placing second in the event to Lincoln High junior Kyle Moison. His throw also broke a 32-year-old school record by 3½ inches, and he climbed a few spots in the event’s national rankings to 12th.

Hooper also made a few fans that wonderful afternoon, including one 1,100 miles away in Madison, Wisc., University of Wisconsin assistant track and field coach Dave Astrauskas.

The Badgers’ throws coach watched a video of Hooper at the state meet, where he was the only thrower to unleash five throws that were over 62 feet, and Astrauskas quickly contacted head coach Kerrie Carpenter for Hooper’s contact information.

One thing led to another, and Hooper, who had been looking at continuing his athletic and academic career at Division I schools such as Marquette, Northeastern, URI, Iowa State, and Auburn, eventually found himself signing a National Letter of Intent to the Big Ten Conference university.

“The coach liked what he saw, and I guess he saw that I could improve by a lot, which I always want to do,” Hooper recalled last Friday afternoon during a signing ceremony at Cumberland High’s main lobby. “I went on an unofficial visit there and I just loved every aspect of the school. I couldn’t find a single negative about the school. It’s a great training group, a great school, a great coach – it checked all my boxes for what I wanted to do and where I want to go.”

“It all happened within a couple of weeks after states,” Hooper added. “It was pretty insane.”

At the state meet, Hooper admitted that he had a tough time finalizing a decision among the five schools on his radar. He made official visits to all of them, but had a difficult time trying to eliminate any of them from his wish list.

“It was really close,” Hooper admitted. “I really hadn’t put one above all the others. They were all still in there. That’s why I was kind of waiting a little bit to see if one would really take the lead, but then Wisconsin came in and really took the lead. They gave me a good offer that was pretty much equal with all the other schools when it came to finances and everything, so between that and everything else that I wanted, (Wisconsin) was just too good to pass up.”

Armed with his scholarship to Wisconsin, Hooper went to The Armory in New York to compete in the New Balance National Championships, and he concluded his indoor career with a bang by finishing fifth and earning All-American honors in the hammer and breaking his school record with a throw of 70-1.

Hooper, who plans to study computer engineering, took a minute to address the gathering at his signing ceremony and give special thanks to his family, his school, and his coaches, especially retired head coach Tom Kenwood, who still drops by the school now and then to work with the athletes, and his throws coach for the past two years, former CHS and Rhode Island College standout Colin Cabral.

“A lot of my explosiveness came from him,” Hooper said of Cabral. “I’m not an explosive person when it comes to athletics, but he’s helped me learn to really use my hips and my legs more and get more into my throws.”

“And T.K.’s a legend around here,” continued Cabral. “He retired a couple of years ago, but he’s still been coming everyday to help out, specifically with the throwers, and he’s been a huge help. And the last year or so, Brandon Amo, who graduated from URI, has also helped me. Some weekends, I’ll go out to Hendricken or Mount Pleasant to get some extra throws in, and he’s been a huge help with my tenchique.”

Hooper, who has also played for the Clippers’ football and lacrosse teams, while working year-round on throwing the weight and the hammer, admitted that he will not be returning to the lacrosse team, which reached the state semifinals last spring, but working full-time on his craft with the outdoor track and field team.

“It was a tough decision,” confessed Hooper. “I want to still be a little part of that team, maybe a team manager kind of thing, because I have so many friends on the team and a lot of memories there, so I’m still going to be a huge supporter of the team. But this spring, I just want to try to get better.”