Chance encounter leads Perry to track scholarship
by Jason Greenberg
May 18, 2014 | 810 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville head track and field coach Rusty Grimmett knows an athlete when he sees one.

So when he saw Blake Perry running the Cartersville High track during a summer cheerleading workout in 2011, Grimmett asked Perry to join the track and field team.

Nearly three years later, Perry is sure glad Grimmett noticed her because, on Wednesday, she signed a track and field scholarship to attend Jacksonville State University.

“I saw her running the track and she looked like an athlete, she looked like a runner. I’m always looking to find those people, and I asked her about it and kind of forgot about it. When track season came along, she went out for it, and it kind of went from there,” Grimmett said. “She’s got a nice-looking stride and kind of long-legged. I wanted to try her in the hurdles and she kind of took to it. I knew she would be a pretty good jumper, also, so tried her at long jump and at triple jump. She really kind of found a home in the hurdles and the triple jump.

“You never know those things, but just looking at her, you knew there was something there — the body type, the stride, the stride length, those type of things.”

“[Grimmett] saw me running laps, and he stopped me and he said, ‘You should run track,’” Perry said of the encounter with Grimmett between her freshman and sophomore year. “I was like, ‘Really? Track. I don't know if that's for me.’ I had never done it but I tried it. And, sophomore year, he taught me the basics and he taught me everything. By junior year I did pretty well, so I’m glad he told me.”

Perry set a school record this year in the triple jump with a distance of 37 feet, 8 inches at sectionals. She finished fourth at the state meet in Albany with a distance of 37 feet, 1 1/2 inches. She also finished sixth in the 100-meter hurdles at state with a time of 15.1 seconds. Perry was the Region 5-AAA champ in both events.

In her junior year, she placed seventh in the 100-meter hurdles and eighth in the triple jump at state.

She also competed in the 300-meter hurdles, the 4x100 relay and the 4x400 meter relay.

“She did gymnastics all her life and cheerleading, and her senior year, she started running track. She just did it for fun, and her junior year, she got good and I thought, ‘OK.’ Who knew that this would pay for her education?” Perry’s mother, Anissa Cooley, said. “It just kind of happened. Once she started running, she loved it. She got passionate about it. She was a natural and she just loved the sport. I am so proud of her.”

Perry plans to compete in the triple jump and 100-meter hurdles at Jacksonville State, a Division I program in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“I've always had an interest in Jacksonville State. My mom went there and so did [Grimmett], so that was a big influence, too,” Perry said as to why she chose the Gamecocks. “I visited my junior year and I’ve loved the school ever since. There were some schools that were far away like Johnson & Wales University in Colorado, Indiana Tech. There were also close to home schools like West Georgia, but I think I will fit better at Jack state.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity for her. I’ve talked to that coach [Steve Ray] several times and he seems like a guy who is a little like me when I talk to him, so I think that will be a good fit for Blake,” Grimmett, who played football for the Gamecocks, said. “It’s an up-and-coming program. They seem to do well in their conference, so it’ll be a real positive experience for her.”

Despite her accomplishments in high school, Grimmett believes Perry still has room for improvement.

“I think there’s a tremendous upside for Blake,” Grimmett said. “She can go there and get involved in the weight lifting. They have a strength and conditioning coach that will oversee that. If she can get the strength she needs, it’s going to equal faster times, better distances. She’s had weight training one semester here throughout her career and that’s just not enough. Being on a regimented program year-round of lifting weights, I can see her getting a lot better. I think she has a high ceiling.”