On a day when a select number of high school seniors are able to live out part of their athletics dreams, Rocky Mount High’s Kasey Cooke was in a class by herself.
Surrounded by family, friends and school administrators, Cooke became the first girls’ soccer player in the school’s history to sign a national letter of intent to play Division I college soccer.
Cooke is heading to Western Carolina in the fall.
She will do so as a trendsetter as she is only the second Twin Counties girls’ soccer player to make the transition to Division I action.
2011 Northern Nash graduate Ally Glover (East Carolina) was the first.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Cooke, while standing on the school’s soccer pitch Wednesday afternoon. “I wish more people could do that. Soccer is an amazing sport. It’s amazing to be the first girl from Rocky Mount High. Ally and I played together from the time we were 7 until I was 15, so I think it’s great.”
Cooke has put in the time, circling the country with national and developmental teams during the offseason.
She certainly has the skill.
Cooke, a forward/midfielder, scored 47 goals last season for the Gryphons, and she has led the way to a pair of Big East Conference championships during her three-year varsity career.
The soon-to-be Catamount is expected to set a new Gryphons goal-scoring career mark during the upcoming season. Andrew Morales, a sophomore at Southern Methodist, holds the record with 106.
“Rare players come along rarely,” Rocky Mount coach Drew Nick said. “It’s redundant to say that, but they just don’t come around often. You build programs around players like Kasey.”
Cooke might become a building block in Cullowhee. She will play in the midfield for Western Carolina, which lost 10 matches last season by one goal.
It’s a school and an opportunity Cooke decided on a year and a half ago, but she could not make official until Wednesday.
“I loved everything about the scenery,” Cooke said. “It’s something completely different and new, and I enjoyed the team. I’m hoping to go in there and help them build stronger and go for a conference championship.”
While Cooke was temporarily distracted, her best friend and Gryphons teammate, Sydney Browder, along with Cooke’s younger brother and sister, sprayed her with silly string to celebrate the occasion.
She will soon separate from the group but not from the sport she loves.
“I can’t think of my life without playing soccer,” Cooke said. “I have to play soccer.”
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or jhnunery@ rmtelegram.com