WATCH: Florida Tech varsity-athlete spotlight recognizes cross-country runner Avery Cook

cook specializes in environmental sciences

ABOVE VIDEO: Spotlight Scholar-Athlete Ep. 7: Avery Cook

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Being a college athlete at Florida Tech takes an incredible amount of hard work and dedication to excel both in the classroom and on the court.

In this scholar-athlete spotlight, we feature Panther male cross country runner Avery Cook, a junior who majored in environmental science.

A native of West Linn, Oregon, Avery competed at the Sunshine State Conference championships earlier today, placing 42nd with a time of 27: 41.94.

Cook was named to the Florida Tech Athletic Director and SSC Commissioner Honor Roll in each of his first two years at school.

Environmental science is a subject of great importance not only to the world at large, but especially here on the space coast. We sat down with Avery to ask him what led him to this path and what caught his eye while studying the Indian River Lagoon.

■ What is your specialty at Florida Tech and why did you choose this? Is this something you’ve always wanted to be a part of?
My major is environmental science, and I had no idea I wanted to pursue it until my last year of high school.

I took AP environmental science classes in high school and got really interested in this class and all the field trips we did. I liked discovering nature.

■ Regarding environmental sciences, what prompted you to choose Florida Tech?
You really can’t beat the general atmosphere of campus. It’s pretty tight-knit.

The weather is nice. In addition, the Indian River Lagoon is an amazing place to study for a major in environmental science.

■ Have you explored the different habitats across Florida a lot since you started environmental science, and now have you looked at them differently because of it?
Not necessarily so much in Florida, I stayed quite close to the Indian River Lagoon. I was originally from Oregon and was an Eagle Scout, actually. We would go camping every month, camping with my family in the summer.

I spent a lot of time outdoors growing up.

■ So what are some exciting projects that you have been able to work on in class here?
My Geographic Information Systems course last semester is by far the best course I have taken in school so far.

We would create maps based on the data we collect either in the Indian River Lagoon or other parts of the world and apply them to creating a map to show an environmental impact of a certain volume in a zone.

■ What opened your eyes the most while studying the lagoon? Did you know anything about this before attending Florida Tech and what did you learn during your time here that really stood out?
When I walked in I didn’t know much about the Indian River Lagoon, but being here and being in class really opened my eyes to the problem it is becoming, as this is the one of the few habitats available for the Indian River manatee.

And with all the deposits that are deposited by runoff and other human-made sources, there is a layer of mud that builds up at the bottom. This kills any seagrass that the manatees eat. Thus, it drives them out of their only habitat and into extinction.

■ How do you plan to use your degree after graduation?
Well, I am thinking of pursuing a specific master’s degree in GIS (geographic information systems), which focuses on data mapping in relation to environmental sciences.

I want to be able to use it in a business to help them decide where they should build a certain building, or where they should offset the impacts they create from one area to another.

■ How do you balance everything during your season?
We practice six days a week. We take Monday mornings off but other than that we have to be at the Clemente Center at 5:20 am every day. Not being late or coaching makes us train an hour earlier.

On top of that, I also work at the Clemente Center, over 15-20 hours a week. I started projects early before you really had to. You have to do a lot of your work. Make sure you take your time and do it right.

■ You mentioned that you work here at the Clemente Center 15 to 20 hours a week. So what does an average day between class and your job look like for you?
So, I do my practice in the morning, then I start class at 10 a.m. after a breakfast, maybe a nap. Then I will take a few hours of class, then I work two to three hours a day or even teach a fitness class.

I teach a fun running club here in Clemente and used to teach total body lift before passing it on to someone else.

■ How has being a varsity athlete prepared you for what you are doing now and what do you take away from a cross country that you are applying to your studies?
The most important part of cross country training is just putting money in the bank, so to speak. So you can’t catch up with a season, you have to work in the summer and gradually develop your fitness until the conference, regional and national meetings.

It’s the same with school homework. You cannot study the day before the test and expect to do well.

You have to develop yourself during the semester, doing the little things throughout the semester to really make sure you are successful.

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