UC track star has Olympic dream
Cotten, who will compete in the Big East Conference Track & Field Championships beginning Saturday in New York, hails from rural West Virginia where there wasn’t much competition in girls track.
In fact, Cotten considered pursuing track in college solely as a means to fund her education.
“Coming into college, I really didn’t think I’d have any success at all,” she said. “I didn’t have any expectations, especially competing in the Big East.”
Cotten played basketball at Fayetteville High, but track was her first love. Problem was, Cotten’s track coach, Charlie Linkous, also was her basketball coach and far from a track aficionado.
“We didn’t do much in practice,” Cotten said. “He was a great basketball coach and a great motivator, but he didn’t know much about track. There wasn’t much training.”
Despite limited practices and being the only girl on her high school track team, Cotten still managed to become the state record-holder in the 100-meters, 400 meters, and long jump. She was a four-time all-state selection and the Coalfield Conference Athlete of the Year as a senior.
After briefly considering the University of West Virginia and other schools, Cotten landed at UC where she enjoyed a successful freshman year.
Cotten narrowly missed winning the pentathlon and finished second in the heptathlon at the 2007 All-Ohio Indoor Championships and finished sixth in the pentathlon at the Big East Indoor Championships. She also posted a season-best 18’ 11-1/2" long jump at the Alabama Relays.
But, when a hamstring injury caused Cotten to miss most of her sophomore season, it felt like she was back to square one in her college career.
“I was depressed when I wasn’t running,” she said. “It was just a bad year. I definitely wanted to finish school and get a master’s degree, but I wanted to run. I wanted to compete.”
Cotten, a psychology major, has since worked with a sports psychologist who has helped her regain confidence and improve her mental approach.
“If I can overcome the mental aspects, the sky’s the limit for me,” Cotten said.
Time away from the track helped Cotten refocus prior to her junior year in an effot to take her career to a new level.
As a junior, Cotton established school Records in the indoor pentathlon (4,073 points) and indoor long jump (19 feet 9 inches).
She finished 18th at the NCAA Championships in the heptathlon with a score of 5,286, and hit the NCAA automatic qualifying mark in the pentathlon and an NCAA provisional qualifying mark in the high jump.
Cotten was named the Big East’s most outstanding performer after winning the pentathlon, placing fourth in the long jump and placing fifth in the high jump.
The 2010 season has been more of the same for the 21-year old.
Cotten posted the top score in the nation in the pentathlon (4,056), was tied for 12th nationally in the high jump (5-10), and posted the 19th-best long jump mark in the nation (20-1.5).
Her long jump of 20-1 1/2 made her the first athlete in UC women’s history to eclipse 20 feet in the event.
Cotten now is seriously considering a bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She is planning to attend graduate school in social work, then take a year off to train for the Olympics.
“My Olympic dreams kind of went away for awhile,” she said. "There was a time when I didn’t believe in myself. But something clicked in my head that if I dedicated myself to my training, anything is possible."
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