WATCH: Florida Tech’s Scholar-Athlete Spotlight Recognizes Cross Country Runner Avery Cook

By  //  October 24, 2021

cook is majoring in environmental science

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

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

In this Scholar-Athlete Spotlight, we feature Panther men’s cross country runner Avery Cook, a junior who is majoring in environmental science.

Hailing from West Linn, Oregon, Avery competed in the Sunshine State Conference Championships earlier today, placing 42nd with a time of 27:41.94.

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

Environmental science is a topic that holds vast importance not just to the world at large but especially here on the Space Coast. We sat down with Avery to ask him about what led him to this path and what’s caught his attention while studying the Indian River Lagoon.

■ What’s your major at Florida Tech and why did you choose this? Is it something that you’ve always wanted to be a part of?
My major is environmental science, and I didn’t know I wanted to pursue it until about my senior year of high school.

I took AP environmental science in high school and got really into that class and all the field trips we took. I enjoyed learning about nature.

■ Regarding environmental science, what made you choose Florida Tech?
You really can’t beat the overall atmosphere that the campus provides. It’s pretty close-knit.

It’s got beautiful weather. Also, the Indian River Lagoon is an amazing place to study for an environmental science major.

■ Have you done a lot of exploring of the different habitats across Florida since you’ve started environmental science, and now looked at it differently because of that?
Not necessarily so much in Florida, I’ve stayed pretty local to the Indian River Lagoon. Originally, I’m from Oregon and I was an Eagle Scout, actually. We would go out on camping trips every month, go camping with my family during the summer.

I got a lot of outdoor time growing up.

■ So, what are some of the exciting projects that you’ve been able to work on in classes here?
My geographic information systems class last semester is by far the best class I’ve taken at the school so far.

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

■ What’s opened your eyes the most while studying the lagoon? Did you know anything about it prior to attending Florida Tech and what have you learned in your time here that really stood out to you?
Coming in, I didn’t really know much about the Indian River Lagoon but being here and being in classes has really opened my eyes to how much of a problem it’s becoming because it’s one of the only habitats available for the Indian River manatee.

And with all the deposits that are being put in through runoff and other human-caused sources, there’s a layer of muck that’s being accumulated at the bottom. This kills all the seagrass that the manatees eat. So, it drives them out of their only habitat and towards extinction.

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

I want to be able to use that in a company to help them decide where they should build a certain building, or where they need to offset the impacts that they’re creating 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 must be in the Clemente Center at 5:20 a.m. every day. Not being late or coaching makes us practice an hour earlier.

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

■ You mentioned you work here at the Clemente Center 15 to 20 hours a week. So, what’s an average day like for you between classes and your job?
So, I do my practice in the mornings, and then I start class at 10 a.m. after some breakfast, maybe a quick nap. Then I go for a couple of hours of class and then work two to three hours a day or even teach a fitness class.

I teach a fun run club here at Clemente and formerly taught total body lift before I passed it on to someone else.

■ How has being a collegiate athlete prepared you for what you’re doing now and what do you take from a cross country that you apply to your studies?
The most important part of cross country training is really just putting money in the bank, so to speak. So, you can’t make up a season, you’ve got to put in the work over the summer and gradually build your fitness up until the conference, regional and national meets.

It’s the same way with schoolwork. You can’t study the day before the test and expect to do good.

You’ve got to build up over the semester, do the little things throughout the semester to really make sure you succeed.

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