Cooka Runs To Dual Golds

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Rim country runner Tom Cooka, 72, continues to build on his legacy of being one of the state's most accomplished long-distance performers.

Cooka's most recent feat occurred March 6 at the Arizona State Senior Olympics in Sun City. There, Cooka won the 70-74-year-old 5K run in a time of 24:00. About 40 minutes later, he took to the course to participate in the 10K event. Finishing in 50:27 he captured his second gold medal of the state showdown.

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Payson's Tom Cooka shows the running form that helped him win two gold medals March 6 at the Arizona State Senior Olympics. Cooka won both the 5K and 10K runs.

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

"I 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 Northern Arizona University.

Cooka says he is not sure whether he will travel to Pittsburgh for the national showdown. But, he will continue to participate on the Tonto Apache Track and Field team of which he is the oldest member.

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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