‘Multi Mentality’ Allows Dylan Cooper To Succeed

While records are meant to be broken, it’s not uncommon for them to be tied.

But that’s another story in the case of the combined event discipline.

Over the course of two days – or one, if competing in the indoor pentathlon – athletes have multiple chances to score any number of points in different events, where even the slightest difference in measurement or finishing time equals at least a one-point swing.

So, when Dylan Cooper of UW-Eau Claire matched Will Daniels’ NCAA Division III heptathlon record of 5441 points at the 2020 WIAC Indoor Track & Field Championships this past February, it definitely opened some eyes (Daniels established the mark the previous year at the Wartburg Indoor Select, topping the old standard by seven points).

All-Time Top-10 Performers – NCAA DIII Mens’ Indoor Heptathlon

Dylan Cooper
UW-Eau Claire
Will Daniels
Central (Iowa)
Richard Roethel
Christopher Newport
Caleb Cox
Illinois College
Brandon Zarnoth
UW-Eau Claire
Eric Larson
Central (Iowa)
Zach Anderson
Nate Newman
Ohio Wesleyan
Cody Faust
Jack Flood
SUNY Cortland

“You don’t see that too often,” said 2020 USTFCCCA NCAA Division III National Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year Sarah Glidden, who mentors Cooper and the rest of the talented Blugold combined event athletes. “I honestly can’t think of a time that it ever happened.

“But it’s truly a testament to Dylan’s resolve and mental toughness that he was able to bounce back and be in the position that he was in after that first day he had. He’d be the first to tell you that he wasn’t feeling like himself. It really speaks to what kind of competitor he is.”

Cooper left the Kolf Sports Center on that Friday with 2945 points, 207 fewer than Daniels’ record pace and 68 fewer than what he (Cooper) put up the previous month at the Warren Bowlus Open on his way to what was the 11th best score in NCAA DIII history (5325 points).

Something – or better yet, someone – had to change for Cooper to get back on track to have a shot at etching his name atop the NCAA Division III record book, which was a goal he set for himself before the meet began.

“It’s all about having that ‘Multi Mentality,’” Copper said on the phone from his hometown in Holmen, Wisconsin. “I could sit there and feel sorry about myself or I could do everything in my power to make sure it was just one bad day. I hate excuses.”

Cooper rested easier that night knowing Day 2 kicked off with the 60 Meter Hurdles, his signature event. After all, he would have qualified for the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships in the open event as the 15th best performer on the Descending Order List with his lifetime PR of 8.17 from the previous week.

But that wasn’t enough for Cooper: Drastic times call for drastic measures.

“I did something that I have never done before a meet,” Cooper said with a laugh. “I listened to hard rock and I’m sure some metal made its way on that playlist. I’m not really a fan and always listen to rap before a meet, but I wanted something to really change my focus.”

Does Cooper remember any of the songs he heard?

“Can’t say I do,” Cooper said. “I wish, though. (His teammate) Marcus (Weaver) loves that stuff and wanted to talk to me about it, but was kind of bummed when all I could tell him was that I was sure I heard AC/DC. I had no idea on the other stuff.”

Well, the rock gods passed their blessings.

Cooper, a senior, began Day 2 with a heptathlon PR in the 60H of 8.29 for 910 points. No one was even close to him in the heat as he won by 0.41 seconds. That pulled him within 136 points of Daniels’ pace from the previous year.

Then Cooper went into the pole vault knowing 4.60m (15-1) or better would put him exactly where he’d want to be entering the final event. He cleared 4.61m (15-1½) for the second best mark of his career and 793 points, which put him 74 points behind Daniels.

Cooper left it all on the track in the 1000 Meters, the final event of the multi. He crossed the finish line first in a PR of 2:47.41 for 793 points, giving him the record-tying total of 5441.

Want to know the difference between sole possession of the record and a 50% stake? Try 0.11 seconds – 2:47.41 (793) versus 2:47.30 (794). The multi is that cruel.

“You can always look back and wonder what else you could have done, but that’s not what happened that day,” Cooper said. “I don’t think I deserved the record after that first day I had, so I couldn’t be happier to share the record with Will. We’re good friends. He’s a great guy.”

And who knows what Cooper – or any athlete, for that matter – could have done two weeks later at the NCAA meet, if it was held. Then again, right now, that’s all conjecture as the coronavirus pandemic had other ideas.

“Dylan gave this really amazing pep talk to the event group before the conference meet about how you should always give it your all, because you never know when it could be your last chance to compete,” Glidden said. “We didn’t know it at the time, but that turned out to be really prophetic.”

Cooper is now training at home, hoping for at least one more shot at a multi this year. If a meet pops up, he’ll enter the decathlon. If not, he’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other.

“It’s tough, but all you can do is control what you can control,” Cooper said. “That’s what that whole ‘Multi Mentality’ is all about.”