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The Carletonian

Carleton athlete profile: Donson Cook-Gallardo

<nson Cook-Gallardo ’18, the holder of numerous Carleton track and field records, has recently added a new time to the record books. Last Saturday at a South Dakota State University track meet, Cook-Gallardo ran the mile in 4:08.10 minutes, surpassing the previous record set back in 1969 by Mike Steiner.  He now holds the Carleton indoor 600 meter, 800 meter, 1000 meter and mile records.   

Born in Panama, Cook-Gallardo moved to Idaho and had not begun running track and field until his sophomore year of high school. His parents had always encouraged him to participate in sports, and he played soccer growing up. A combination of his brother running track and strong familial influences guided him to take up track and field. Cook-Gallardo excelled at the sport rather quickly, and was soon dominating meets and being recruited by a number of Division I schools. However, he was not interested in the time commitment required from Division I athletic programs and ultimately decided the Division III route would be the ideal fit.

This decision has not prevented Cook-Gallardo from racing against the country’s top competition. Every year he attends a handful of Division I school track meets, saying, “it’s always good fun beating DI athletes.” Freshman year, he competed at the USA Junior National track competition, and was the only Division III athlete in attendance. At his last meet at South Dakota State University, where he set the mile record, Cook-Gallardo knew he was going into the race in great shape and was mentally well-prepared.  “Right after I saw the time, I knew that I had that in me, I just hadn’t shown it in a race yet,” he said after realizing he had set the new Carleton record.

Cook-Gallardo says his main events are the 800 meter and the mile, and this year he is particularly focusing on the mile. “Every single race is a mental battle that goes on in your head”, he said, and strives to maintain a calm demeanor before a big meet. “I don’t freak out. I’m pretty relaxed in general, so I try not to think too much about it until an hour before I race.” Cook-Gallardo also spoke highly of the new group of freshmen, stating “we have a really great group that came in at time when the team needed rebuilding.”

Regarding team goals, he believes “getting third at conference would be a reasonable team goal.” Individually, Cook-Gallardo is challenging himself by running four events at the upcoming MIAC conference finals, allowing him a week to recover before Nationals where he will likely just run the mile. “For myself, I would like to win nationals in the mile and eventually break 4 minutes,” Cook-Gallardo said.

Cook-Gallardo is on the pre-med track, and he will be applying to medical schools within the next few months. Having dual citizenship with Panama and the US, it is possible that Cook-Gallardo could represent Panama in the Olympics. Currently, he is technically the fastest Panamanian in the 800 meter and 1500 meter distances and has been in contact with the Team Panama national coach and a member of the Panamanian Olympic Committee about the prospect of running for the country. Cook-Gallardo sees this as an incredible opportunity, but will weigh all his options before making a decision.   

Head coach David Ricks spoke in admiration of Cook-Gallardo’s qualities on and off the track. “Donson is truly an ambassador for Carleton.  He is the best guy talking to and hosting recruits. I cannot say enough about his character and I am proud that he is more than just a runner. He is truly a national and international ambassador for Carleton and the sport of Track & Field in general,” Ricks said.  

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