8th Grader Tyrese Cooper Breaks 200m National Record

Tyrese Cooper posing in front of the North Florida sign where the 49th USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships is being held this weekend in Jacksonville, FL

Tyrese Cooper, the middle school sprint phenom from Florida ran a 20.98 in the 200m today, setting a new USATF Junior Olympics 15-16 boys 200m National Record, and it wasn't even in the finals. Not only is the time a National Record, it would would rank US#10 this year amongst high schoolers.

Despite the pre-race jitters that Cooper acknowledges he had, the post-race excitement is what he remembers most.

"I was going crazy. I was jumping around," said Cooper in response to seeing 20.98 on the clock.

Cooper and his coach at Miami Gardens Xpress Track Club, Darius Lawshae, have no intentions of putting an end to the record breaking this week. The rising high school freshman has the potential to break two other national records in both the 100m (10.54) and 400m (45.99), which he plans on competing in later this week.

"If we get out hard that first 200m, I know the record is going to fall," said Lawshae.

Coach Lawshea is referring to Obea Moore's 15-16 age group National Record of 45.99 set in 1995.

"Tyrese sometimes like to experiment and that's just him being young minded, and I’m his coach," Lawshea said. "He’s got a lot of room to grow. If he gets out the way I trained him to get out, the record will fall. He can go 45.5 right now, but he has to execute a perfect race."

Cooper at the USATF Junior Olympics venue in Jacksonville, FL repping his Miami Gardens Xpress uniform. This is his first time competing at USATF Junior Olympics

In the 100m, Cooper said he is going for a 10.4. If the 15-year-old boy runs that fast, another USATF age group national record will fall. Currently, Donald Marshall holds the USATF 15-16 age group national record of 10.54 from 1987.

As only an 8th grader, this past year Cooper has run 10.51 (+3.2) in the 100m and a 46.44 400m, which he ran to take third at New Balance Nationals Outdoor 100m against an all high school field.

“Running against high schoolers, that’s not even a goal anymore," Lawshea said. "We just want to run against the best. New Balance set the bar high for us, that was a game changer. High school track is high school track, but we're concentrating on running against the best kids in the country.”

Lawshea credits some of Cooper's late season success to running his athletes on the dirt and soft surfaces often, which helps them stay healthy and peak at the right times.

Cooper himself is a man of few words. What clearly resonated from the young talent though were these five words, "I want to be great."

The truth is Cooper is great. There are few Americans at his age who have ever run faster. He wants more though.

"I'm going to go faster in the [200m] semi-finals," Cooper said.

In order to run faster though, Lawshae engrains in his athletes the necessity to push beyond the status quo.

"Just because he’s 15 years old, doesn’t mean he has to run like he’s 15." Before the race, Lawshae went on to tell Cooper, "God’s given you a gift and you can run like a grown man. Don’t hold back for anybody."

Two years ago, Tyrese Cooper approached Coach Lawshae with a hope to run for Miami Garden Express.

“I remember that day when he walked up to me and said, ‘Coach I want to be fast. I want to be great I want to run with your program.'"

Cooper joined the team and was 5th on his team in his age group. Later that year Coach Lawshae recalls Tyrese coming up to him again and saying, “‘Coach, I really want to train to be great.’ I said, ‘Tyrese, that’s on you. You have a gift. You have to put the work in. Now, I’m going to teach you things to help you do it, but you got to want to do it yourself.’ So he started grinding, and grinding, and grinding.”

The success has come fast in a two year stretch, but you can bet Cooper will continue to grind. Stay updated on MileSplit.com as Cooper chases records this week out at USATF Junior Olympics in his home state of Florida.

Fun Fact: Tyrese Cooper's twitter name (@starlife_smoke) was given to him by his football coach because he would get the ball and leave everyone else in the dust. Cooper added, if he runs 45mid in the 400m, he probably won't play football this fall to avoid any potential injury.