Cooka Set For Piestewa; Tontos Bound For Provo

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Although Tom Cooka has entered the Lori Piestewa National Native American Games, some of his fellow Tonto Apache Track and Field team members will not compete due to a conflict with Junior Olympics.

Cooka, 72, the oldest athlete in last year's Piestewa games, will compete in the 1,500-meter walk, 1,500-meter run, 800 meters, 300 meters, 400 meters and the shot put.

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Tom Cooka

The Native American Games will be held July 15 to 18 in Flagstaff, Tuba City and Page.

Six members of the Tonto Track team will not participate but rather will travel July 13 to 18 to Provo, Utah were they will are entered in the Region 10 Junior Olympic championships. The team members to qualify for the games are Hannah Quade, Valentino Doka, Shawn Levine, Kendell Begay, Cody Waterman and Alex Winchester.

Those who finish among the top three in Provo will earn berths in the National Junior Olympics Championships July 27 to Aug. 1 in Eugene, Ore.

Tonto track and field coach Billy Joe Winchester says he will encourage team members who did not qualify for the region 10 competition to enter the Piestewa games.

The games are open to all tribes and athletes must be at least 1/4 Native American to compete.

The competitions include 5-on-5 basketball, adult softball, track and field and volleyball.

Basketball will be played in both Tuba City and Flagstaff. Softball action is slated for Page only. Track and field and volleyball will be played in Flagstaff.

Cooka will enter the Piestewa games as an Arizona State Senior Olympic champion. His senior titles were earned March 6 in Sun City. There, Cooka won the 70-74-year-old 5K run in a time of 24:00. About 40 minutes later, he participated in the 10K event. Finishing in 50:27, he captured his second gold medal of the state showdown.

Although Cooka was elated with the medals, he was hoping for faster clockings.

"I'm could have run better. I haven't been training real hard," he said. "But those races were pretty close together."

With the two Senior Olympic victories, Cooka has now qualified in four events for the National 2005 Senior Olympics to be held in Pittsburgh.

In addition to the 5K and 10K, he is eligible to participate in both the 800- and 1,500-meter events. He earned national berths in those two runs at a state meet Feb. 19 at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Cooka says he is not sure whether he will travel to Pittsburgh for the national showdown but is looking forward to the Piestewa games.

A member of the Hopi tribe, Cooka retired to the Rim country after a long career on the Santa Fe Railroad in Winslow. As a 50-year-old, he was a member of the Northland Pioneer College track and field team.

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