Home Local Sports Jimmy Cooley: The Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week

Jimmy Cooley: The Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week

Jimmy Cooley is the Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week.

Name: Jimmy Cooley

Age: 17

Year: Senior

Winter Sport: Swimming

Events: 50-yard Freestyle, 100-yard Butterfly, 200-yard Freestyle, 200-yard Medley Relay and 400-yard Freestyle

Years on Varsity: 1 year

Height & Weight: 5’11”, 155 lbs.

Experience: 1 Year Competitively

ROCKINGHAM – Jimmy Cooley has been named the Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week presented by McNair Auto Sales. Participating in the inaugural season of Richmond Senior High School’s swimming program, Cooley’s nomination comes as a result of his consistent performance in the pool, as well as proving to be one of Richmond’s most athletically talented swimmers. He uses his speed and strength against swimmers from top-rated programs like Jack Britt and Pinecrest high schools.

RSHS Academics: Cooley is the first Official Richmond County Athlete to be featured who is enrolled in the Arts Cluster at RSHS. He’s a straight-A student who has earned a 4.82 weighted GPA, and currently sits as the No. 16-ranked student in the graduating class of 2018. As a part of the Arts Cluster, Cooley is taking several classes both at Richmond and Richmond Community College, but notes that he definitely favors his choir classes.

“This semester, I’m taking Men’s Choir, Vocal Ensemble and Advanced Band,” Cooley stated. “My chorus classes are my favorite because I’ve made the best connections in them. I’ve really been able to improve my voice and I don’t even feel like (these classes) are a part of school.”

Other classes Cooley is taking, or will take this spring at either institution, are Concert Choir, Advanced Chorus, AP Human Geography and Spanish 111 and 112. If he’s not taking college classes, Cooley takse either AP or Honors courses. As a junior last year, Cooley also served as a junior marshal.

RSHS Sports: Aside from helping kickstart the Raiders’ swimming program this winter, Cooley is also a member of the Richmond tennis team in the spring. As a junior, he earned the No. 6 seed in singles competition, while garnering an even better No. 3 seed ranking in doubles. He plans to compete on the court for the Raiders this spring, too.

Cooley has spent time with the Raiders soccer team as a freshman and junior, starting at left back. His best memory of playing soccer was his entire junior season when Richmond went 9-0-1 in conference play.

Extracurricular Activities: To date, Cooley may be the most invested Official Richmond County Athlete of the Week at Richmond. Not only is he involved in several clubs, he also holds offices in three of them.

“I’m a (general) member of the National Beta Club,” Cooley said. “And I’m also the secretary of the National Honors Society, the president of the Coexist Club and a section leader in vocal ensemble. One thing I’ve tried to do to set myself apart from my classmates is become actively involved in as many organizations as possible.”

Cooley also has an incredible story that showcases his personal courage and explains why he became president of the Coexist Club. In October 2015, Cooley announced that he was bisexual and was initially concerned how his friends, family and the community would react. But he noted that it was one of the best decisions he’s ever made and he’s received an overwhelming amount of support.

“When I came out, I was worried,” Cooley admitted. “Richmond County is a conservative community, but I have had nothing but positive support.

“I became the president of the Coexist Club because I wanted to make a positive impact,” Cooley continued. “I want to help end any misconceptions there may be.”

With Beta Club, Cooley completes a lot of community service hours, and most recently, he said he enjoyed the opportunity to read to students at Monroe Avenue Elementary School. He is also a member of the Club’s show choir and group talent ensemble, and is currently preparing to compete at the state convention later this school year.

Not only does Cooley stay busy at school, he’s a member of First Presbyterian Church in Rockingham where he attends youth group and is a member of the choir. Also at the church, Boy Scout Troop 64 meets, and Cooley recently earned the organization’s highest rank of Eagle Scout on November 13. 

“For my Eagle Project, I renovated the playground at the (First Presbyterian) church,” Cooley explained. “We unloaded 500, 50-pound bags of mulch because the ground was almost bare.

“I was also in charge of painting the playground equipment and fixing some exposed concrete,” he continued. “Other projects we did were trimming trees, fixing up picnic tables and building a new sandbox.”

Hobbies: If it hasn’t already been said, Cooley is a busy guy. But when he does have downtime between school, sports and community activities, he enjoys playing video games (Xbox all the way), working out at FirstHealth and playing pickup games with his friends.

Cooley, unlike a lot of people his age, has a vested interest in reading, and more specifically, reading about politics.

“I try to read as much as I can, especially about politics,” Cooley said. “I also watch political videos (both legitimate and satire), and try to listen to both sides of the political aisle to learn as much as I can. 

“I believe that if you don’t pay any attention, you’re uninformed,” Cooley continued. “And if you pay too much attention to one side, you’re misinformed.”

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Interesting Fact: Chuckling when asked this question, Cooley said he wasn’t sure what constituted as an “interesting fact.” But after some serious thought, he came up with two. One, he’s been to two Auburn National Championship Games and, two, he enjoys traveling with his family.

“My dad, Will Cooley, went to Auburn for his undergraduate and master’s degree,” Cooley commented. “So that’s where my interest in Auburn comes from. We went to the 2010 National Championship in Glendale, Az., which Auburn beat Oregon. That was pretty cool. I also went to the 2013 game when Auburn lost to Florida State in Pasadena, Ca.

“I’ve also been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel with my family,” he added. “One of my favorite trips was going to Alaska my sophomore year and going whitewater rafting. I’ve traveled to the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and San Francisco, just to name a few of my favorites.”

College Aspirations: As Cooley prepares to graduate this spring, he’s setting the bar high for what he hopes to achieve after high school. While he’s waiting to hear if he’s been accepted, Cooley is anticipating attending North Carolina State University and earning an undergraduate degree in political science. He noted that both of his parents are Wolfpack alumni, which is one of several reasons he’d like to attend.

But what he wants to do with his degree may be the most commendable decision yet – Cooley wants to attend law school (either at Campbell University or one of several schools in California) and pursue a career in the North Carolina General Assembly as a senator. But his dream job is the crème de la crème of politics – he wants to be the President of the United States.

“This past election is what really got me interested in politics,” Cooley explained. “Our country is deeply divided and there are a lot of different opinions. But people don’t want to listen to one another.

“There are negative stigmas attached to both sides of politics,” he continued. “But I want to cut through all of that. I feel it in my bones that this is my (natural) calling.”

Mentor: There have been a lot of people in Cooley’s life that have influenced him and served as mentors, but no one as important as his mother, Megan McNair.

“My mom has always been there for me,” Cooley said. “She’s been there to wash my dirty clothes, help me with Scouts, and didn’t bat an eye when I came out. “

Cooley would also like to recognize his uncle, Jamie Hale, for being a “good christian man” who has done well in raising his family and helping instill values in him. Other people who have helped him get to where he is are Cub Scout leader Nina Morrison and Scoutmaster Jason Stroll, which Cooley said have pushed him to be the best person he can be.

Lastly, Cooley said he looks up to former president Barack Obama, stating he’s the most “respectable and intelligent” people he’s ever seen.

What has the swim season been like for you so far? What has been the most rewarding/challenging aspects of being in the pool?

“I’m really happy with how I’ve been swimming this season,” Cooley said. “Especially since I’ve been getting better in the 100-yard butterfly. I dedicate a lot of my time to watching tutorials, practicing in the pool and working on improving my endurance and speed.”

In last week’s meet, he cut his 100-yard butterfly time down a second from 1:17.85 to 1:16.72.

Cooley, like many of the Raiders’ swimmers, doesn’t have any prior competitive swimming experience, but said he’s been around the water his whole life and says it’s a “natural fit”. But that’s not stopping him, as he’s continually in the mix at the top of his heats against swimmers from powerhouse programs from Jack Britt and Pinecrest.

“The hardest part of swimming is having to train on days when I don’t feel like it,” Cooley admitted. “But I do it and try to go the extra mile. I’m trying to break new ground, get faster, become more consistent and practice a good diet. 

“I want to beat the Jack Britt and Pinecrest swimmers,” he concluded.

Coach’s Corner: Head coach Mike Way has enjoyed watching all of his swimmers’ progress throughout the season, but noted that Cooley has been his strongest male swimmer since the start and credits his work ethic.

“Jimmy has a lot of natural swimming ability, he works hard at practice to get better, as well as on his own time away from practice,” Way said. “He has made excellent progress in a short period of time. He has posted some very competitive times during the season. 

“The only kids he is really chasing at this point are kids that are year-round swimmers and have been swimming since they were very young,” Way added.

What makes Cooley such a natural fit for the pool?

“His natural ability and a strong desire to get better and attention to detail are the things that make Jimmy successful in the pool,” Way said.

Look for Cooley on the Richmond Observer’s flagship news program Live at 5, as he’ll be in studio for Wednesday’s edition.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.