Tonto Team Senior Wins Four At Piestewa

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Tom Cooka won five gold medals at the Lori Piestewa National Native American Games July 15 to 18 in Flagstaff, Tuba City and Page.

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Tom Cooka, 74, is a frequent competitor in town-sponsored 5K runs. Cooka just returned from the Lori Piestewa games where he was the lone representative of the Tonto Apache track team.

Competing in the 70-to-74-year-old division, Cooka won the 400-, 800-, 1,500-meter runs, 1,500-meter walk and the shot put.

His favorite event, he said, was the 1,500 meters but he was most elated with his showing in the shot put because he only took the event up two years ago.

His winning heave of 21 feet, 6 1/2 inches was a personal record.

At last summer's Piestewa competition, Cooka won six gold medals. He decided not to compete in six events this year because they were held in such a short time period.

"Some events there were only five minutes between," he said. "I didn't enter the 3,200 (meters) like last year because that run really takes it out of you and there's no time for rest."

Because he is 74, Cooka will move up an age bracket for next year's Piestewa games.

A member of the Hopi tribe, Cooka was the only Tonto Apache Track and Field team member entered in the competition. His teammates were in Provo, Utah participating in the Region 10 Junior Olympic championships.

Tribes from around the state were represented at the Piestewa games at Northern Arizona University, including Papago, Navajo, Pima, Hopi and Apache.

The annual games are open to all tribes and athletes must be at least one-quarter Native American to compete.

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

Basketball was played in both Tuba City and Flagstaff. Softball was held in Page only. Track and field and volleyball were contested in Flagstaff.

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