Cooper Quigley has done it all. State championships in two sports, school records, state-meet records, a Pac-12 scholarship, and unprecedented versatility in running and racing.
Such feats are why he was the Male Athlete of the Year in 2021 as a Selah junior and, with an impressively expanded resume as a senior, it’s why he received the distinction again on Wednesday at the Yakima Valley Sports Awards.
Of course you’d expect nothing but success from the best.
But perhaps the most admirable thing about Quigley is that at the end of all this, in his last individual high school race, he lost. More specifically, how he lost.
By being brave and willing to take a risk.
By putting it all on the line.
“I’ve seen the video and it’s a little hard to watch,” Quigley said of the Class 2A state 800-meter final in Tacoma. “With 10 meters left my legs were giving out and then I just remember falling forward. We both did, and I knew it was really close.”
Here’s why it was close.
To start the first state track championships in three years, Quigley stormed to a 2A meet record in the 1,600, closing with a 58-second final lap to lower his career best to 4:08.89 — the third fastest in Valley history. It was the perfect complement to his state cross country title, a race he dominated with an 18-second victory the previous fall.
Moreover, it continued Selah’s mastery of the event, giving the Vikings and distance coach Rick Becker a fourth 1,600 title in the last five state meets. Quigley was glad to be fresh for his shot at extending that legacy.
But then it was back to work. Shortly after the 1,600, Quigley ran a leg in the 4x400 prelims and helped the Vikings make the final. The next day, for the 800 prelims, he ran perhaps a little faster than he needed to with a brisk 1:54.68 to win his heat.
“When I got up Saturday morning, the legs were a little heavy for sure,” he said. “But I’d had something in the back of my mind all season and I wanted to go for it.”
That was not only an 800 title but taking a crack at his second meet record, which would mean toppling the 1:52.16 set in 2017 by three-time champion Brigham Cardon of Selah.
To do that it meant different tactics. Instead of shadowing the leaders and relying on his finishing kick as he had done in the 1,600, Quigley needed to press the issue and take command in the 800. To get a fast time, possibly a record-breaking time, he needed to be aggressive.
“I knew it was a risk,” said Quigley, who had not lost an 800 for two years. “But I wanted to go for that time, a 1:52, and I had to push it. We came through in the high 53s (at the 400 split) and I was leading, pushing it, and feeling good. But on that last lap, I started feeling all those races.”
And yet Quigley, with Bellingham’s William Giesen the lone stalker, held that lead down the backstretch, around the final turn and into the final 100 meters. Quigley’s form started to falter a bit but he called on his strength to hold it together. Giesen gained ground but it took the entire homestretch to pull even and as they approached the finish line both dove for the victory and tumbled to the ground.
In the hectic moments that followed, neither knew who won. But then it was official: Giesen 1:54.11, Quigley 1:54.21 — both career bests.
“It was an amazing senior year and I have so much to be thankful for,” he said. “I really did want that 800 for sure. A triple crown would’ve been nice. But when I think back on it, and now that I’ve seen the video, I left it on the track and that’s all you can ask. It hurts to watch it, but it was an amazing race.”
And Quigley was still not done yet. He returned in the late afternoon for the 4x400 final and ran second leg for the Vikings, who placed sixth. It was his 34th race of the spring, which started with running 9:04.58 in the 3,200 on March 12.
After all that, even the indefatigable Quigley managed to get exhausted. So instead of competing in a couple of the prestigious postseason races this month he’s shutting it down. After Selah’s graduation on Saturday, the University of Arizona awaits.
“I definitely thought about some of those races because that’s where you can get some really fast times,” he said. “But it was a long season, and I want to spend the summer doing what I should to get ready for college. I want to refresh a little and get ready.”