Although siblings Jake Cooper and McKenzie Cooper both missed out on having a regular college signing at Eastern High School due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two didn’t let that stop them from having a signing at their own home.
The twins were able to borrow the Eastern tablecloth and backdrop curtain traditionally used for the Comet college signings at the high school for their big day. Their parents invited the Eastern community to attend while still practicing social distancing as they set up the event inside their garage.
“I was upset because I was getting ready to have my signing at the school when Indiana kind of shut down. But, I’m also happy we were able to do it at home because it’s like everybody’s going to remember it because it was in quarantine, kind of. So, that was pretty cool,” McKenzie said.
Like his sister, Jake was disappointed that he couldn’t have a traditional signing at school, but he also appreciated the uniqueness of the situation.
Approximately 20 people showed up, including coaches and teammates of Jake and McKenzie’s. Since many family members lived out of town, the Coopers hosted a Zoom meeting for those who could not attend the signing in-person.
A shooting guard for the Lady Comets, McKenzie signed to continue her basketball career at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio. She first was drawn to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference that the Yellow Jackets are a part of. Knowing at least one person from every college in the conference, McKenzie thought having those connections would be important. Additionally, Defiance’s sports marketing program “sealed the deal” for her after visiting the campus.
With the pandemic canceling the spring sports season for many athletes, McKenzie said she was grateful she finished her final high school basketball season like normal.
“I’m very grateful that I was able to finish my basketball career, even though I will be playing another four years. I was just happy that I was able to finish it. But my heart goes out to all the seniors that lost their spring sports,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie made the Howard County 1,000-Point Club during her final season, ending her high school career with a total of 1,182 points. After setting this goal for herself at a young age, she said she was glad she was able to achieve it with the help of her teammates and coaches for the past four years.
Jake, a long jumper, hurdler, and 4-by-100-meter relay sprinter, signed to continue his track and field career at IU Kokomo. He admired the forensic science program he planned to major in, as well as the Cougars’ facilities, track and field coaches, and overall environment of the campus, he said.
Although he always thought he might want to continue his athletic career in college, due to not being able to complete his final season of high school track and field, Jake said that secured his decision to continue to pursue the sport collegiately.
“I always kind of wanted to be a college athlete, but I wasn’t for sure. But due to the fact that the coronavirus canceled my senior track season, I figured I might as well just continue,” Jake said.
After sitting out a year of high school track and field due to injuries, Jake came back for his sophomore season, accelerating quicker than he thought he would. That year, he helped the Comets’ track and field team to become Hoosier Heartland Conference and Howard County champions.
The following year, the Eastern boys’ team became back-to-back champions in both conference and county. Before the cancelation of the season, Jake said he hoped the team would accomplish both titles for the third year in a row, and he set an individual goal of being named All-Conference.
“It’s a little upsetting because it’s your senior year, and you don’t get to do it one last time. And it was just taken away. There’s really nothing you can do about it,” Jake said.
The Eastern seniors will finish the school year May 29. They’ll begin their college careers this fall.