Bishop Stang generational shot put prospect announces college commitment

Nov 15, 2022

Bishop Stang senior Jacob Cookinham, one of the top shot put prospects in the nation, committed to the University of Kansas where he will join the school’s NCAA Division I track and field team.

Cookinham, a Tiverton, Rhode Island resident, signed his letter of intent to attend the school at a ceremony at Bishop Stang on Wednesday, Nov. 9, surrounded by his family, friends, and classmates.

The prodigious young thrower had been heavily recruited by schools from around the country after winning a laundry list of titles in recent years, including the 2022 USA Track and Field Youth National Championship.

At the time of the signing ceremony, he had narrowed his list of schools down to five: Dartmouth College, Arizona State University, University of California Riverside, Texas State University, and University of Kansas.

Cookinham called it “the hardest decision [he’s] ever had to make” and assured attendees that he didn’t come to it lightly.

After thanking his family, coaches, fellow students, and his school, the young athlete announced his choice by ripping open his button-down shirt to reveal a University of Kansas tee-shirt — an homage to another great (if fictional) Kansas transplant, Superman.

During his speech, Cookinham, who is a type-1 diabetic, also took the opportunity to acknowledge those living with the condition, reminding the crowd that November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

“I want to shout out to all the people and warriors battling diabetes,” he said.

Before Cookinham announced his decision, his coaches spoke about his character, determination, and, of course, his incredible athletic prowess.

Track and Field Coach Steve McGonigle recalled meeting Cookinham as a freshman and encouraging him to try out for the team as a shot putter.

“Three years ago in the fall of his freshman year, a young man was carrying his double bass down the first floor hallway and I said to him ‘have you ever thought of throwing the shot put’ and he said ‘I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it. But my parents threw the shot so I’d be interested in doing it,’ and as they say the rest is history,” McGonigle recounted.

Cookinham’s throwing coach, Jim Fortin, said that he saw Cookinham’s talent for the sport immediately — an unsurprising gift given that shot putting runs in his family — but didn’t realize just how good he could be.

“This young man came out and he decided to throw the shot put, not just-because — it was a family affair grandfather, mother, dad, they all threw,” Fortin said. “And when he threw I could see that he had potential. I just didn’t realize it was gonna be this much potential.”

Fortin highlighted Cookinham’s development, especially during Covid when the Bishop Stang athlete used his extra time to teach himself the “spin” throwing technique — a more technical, but often more effective, method than the standard “glide.”

“And then all of a sudden he’s giving me these reports of these virtual meets that he’s competing in; he’s winning this and he’s winning that. But for me seeing is believing,” said Fortin. “Until we enter his sophomore year… And then he started to throw these throws and hit these distances and I’m like ‘holy moly’ and then we knew we had a gem here.”

Since then, Cookinham has earned himself multiple state championships and All-American designations, athlete of the year awards from newspapers across Massachusetts, and gold medals from the USA Track and Field Youth Nationals in 2022 and Junior Olympics in 2021.

With most of his senior year still ahead of him, Fortin reminded the crowd at the signing ceremony that Cookinham still had time to rack up even more accolades before making the jump to the collegiate level.

“After today is done I still have him for two more seasons,” he said happily.