Dragons high jumper Cook primed to take 'next step' at Division II outdoor championships
Minnesota State Moorhead senior Chris Cook is among the top men's high jumpers in NCAA Division II and hopes to add another All-American honor to his resumé.
MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead senior high jumper Chris Cook has received most of his technical instruction from Florida this spring track and field season.
An iPad placed on a tripod next to the high jump pit allowed longtime Dragons assistant Dave Bergstrom to coach from, at times, more than 1,800 miles away.
“It’s been different, but it’s worked. It’s been good. It had to come to an end at some point,” said the 64-year-old Bergstrom, who moved to the Twin Cities area about a year ago and also spends time in Florida.
“He’s a great guy and all the love and respect for that man,” Cook said.
Cook is slated to compete in the NCAA Division II outdoor track and field championships, which start Thursday, May 27, in Allendale, Mich. The men’s high jump is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday. Bergstrom will be in attendance at the national meet. He said it will be his last meet as he’s retiring from coaching after 17 years as an assistant with the Dragons.
"It’s kind of a little bittersweet there, but it’s been a great run," said Bergstrom, who is a Hall of Fame member for both the Dragons and Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Bergstrom won a Division II outdoor national title in the men’s high jump in 1979 and holds the school’s outdoor record at 7 feet, 1 3/4 inches.
“The program is going to lose something irreplaceable, having somebody like that,” Cook said. “I know he will still be around. … I don’t think there’s ever going to be somebody like Dave again in this program and do the things that he did.”
Cook enters the national meet tied for the fifth-best performance, clearing 7-0 1/4 earlier this season. While he holds the school’s indoor record (7-0 1/2), he’s chasing Bergstrom for the program’s outdoor standard.
“I’m very excited having this one last national meet where I get to coach. He’s such a talented jumper,” Bergstrom said of Cook.
Bergstrom would love to see Cook eclipse his outdoor record.
“I’m very hopeful he can do that at this national meet,” Bergstrom said. "That would be a great time for him to do it. If he could break it at the NCAA meet, that would be awesome.”
Bergstrom retired from his job as an actuary a couple of years ago, but continued to be a volunteer assistant for the Dragons. Bergstrom and his wife, Trish, moved to the Twin Cities area last spring to be closer to family. He was in Florida from January through the end of April.
That led to video conferencing as a solution for Bergstrom to continue coaching.
“It was not ideal, but we definitely made it work,” said Dragons assistant Trevor Barry, who worked with the jumpers on their strength and conditioning to go along with Bergstrom’s virtual technical coaching sessions.
Barry represented the Bahamas in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and was a high jump finalist, finishing 11th. He recently competed unattached at the Ron Masanz Classic in Moorhead and took first place with a jump of 7-2 1/4. Cook was second at 7-0 1/4. Bergstrom coached Barry, who was an eight-time NAIA national champion at Dickinson State, from 2011 up until the start of the pandemic.
Cook is grateful to have two coaches like Barry and Bergstrom.
“Having someone like Trevor Barry as my coach and seeing him jump, it’s motivation,” Cook said. “Being around people like that, seeing that everyday is amazing. I’ve got to take from that.”
Bergstrom coached the Dragons high jumpers two times a week via video conference for practices and also used the iPad to coach during meets. He was in person for the recent NSIC outdoor championships and another recent practice. The national meet, Bergstrom said, will be the third time he’s coached in person this year.
“There is no replacing Dave in person. There is a lot he brings to the table,” said Dragons head track coach Ryan Milner.
“I love having Dave there in person,” Cook added. “Dave’s really genuine. ... He’s constantly giving me advice, constantly just being a role model.”
Bergstrom said coaching virtually didn’t make sense beyond this season.
“The athletes deserve a live coach and that’s someone who can be there for them,” Bergstrom said.
Cook earned two All-American honors in 2019 before the pandemic disrupted the 2020 indoor and outdoor seasons. Bergstrom said Cook is primed for a big performance at the national meet.
“His best asset is his mental toughness,” Bergstrom said. “When he gets to the big meets, he seems to jump the best. He is about ready to take that next step, which would be really exciting."