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MEEKER | A true pioneer in Colorado girls’ athletics, Debbie Cook began blazing trails back in 1974, when she was graduated from the University of Northern Colorado and began her teaching and coaching career with the Meeker School District. Now after more than 40 years of continued service—teaching, coaching and inspiring hundreds of kids—Cook’s accomplishments will be recognized in January when she is inducted into the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame.
Cook’s husband Jim, her daughters Jennifer and Wendy, along with her friend, former student/coach Hallie Blunt will host an open house Dec. 23 and they invite Cook’s former students/players and their parents to their home from 3–6 p.m., to share stories and celebrate her induction into the Hall of Fame.
“This is so overwhelming, I look at the other inductees and I’m out of my league,” Cook humbly said of the recognition bestowed her and the seven other inductees, which include former Battle Mountain star athlete Jeff Campbell. “But it’s not just about the coaching, it’s about all of the relationships, the extra projects and activities, those are the things I love about all of this.”
According to a CHSAA press release, “Cook’s teams posted a 393-125 mark in volleyball during her 22 years at the helm, winning nine conference titles and going to the state tournament nine times. Cook was named Coach of the Year three times by the Colorado Coaches of Girls’ Sports and she was named the Northwest League Coach of the Year eight times. Cook also coached track for 16 years and girls’ basketball.”
Ironically, Cook had a Hall of Fame coaching career, although she never played any of the sports she later coached while growing up in Glenwood Springs.
“There were no girl sports at all,” Cook said of her high school days. “When I came to Meeker in 1974 (to teach Physical Education and Health), they had G.A.A.—Girls’ Athletic Association, we played war-ball for the first three weeks, they had no girls’ volleyball or basketball and it was the first year for girls’ track,” Cook continued. “Bob King was the superintendent, he had daughters in high and four of the school board members had girls.”
Cook said King and the school board were all supportive of starting basketball and volleyball programs and the journey began.
“The first year we had one play, pass the ball to Vicky (Frisby) Tate and she made the basket, bless her heart,” Cook said. “The second year, I didn’t want them to lose because I didn’t have the knowledge, so we went to camps and clinics, brought in coaches to teach us. We did everything we could to be the best and in the third year we went to state in basketball and our mile relay team (Tate, twins Lois and Lori Englert and Amy Chambers) won a state title and set a record, which stood for 12 years.”
Tate, went to college, earned a teaching degree and returned to Meeker and assisted Cook with the coaching duties for several years.
Cook instilled her core values of; Cowboy pride—how to act, react, perform, practice, dress, how to accept a victory or a loss—and her always positive attitude has influenced and inspired many of her former students to become teachers and coaches of young minds.
All three of Meeker’s current school principals were former students of Cook’s and MHS principal Amy (Joy) Chinn played on her state runner-up volleyball team in 1989. Many of Meeker’s current coaches were also taught or coached by Cook.
“It’s fun when people make you feel like you made a difference and they love what they do as much as you,” Cook said.
Through the years, Cook introduced many new programs to the district, including Drug Free Red Ribbon Week, the annual food drive for the food bank, Jump Rope for Heart, the Elk’s Hoop Shoot, 9Health Fair and she is known to have more students pass the President’s physical fitness test than any other Colorado school district.
Although she has been officially retired for several years, Cook continues to be active in the Methodist Church and PEO, all the while still teaching and inspiring kids, including her grandchildren: Thea, Sophia, Brady and McKelvie.