Cobi Wood is polite and soft-spoken, but before each race, the swimmer listens to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from the movie “Mulan.”
“That’s what my family listened to,” said Wood, 18, who was a Grandview senior in the spring. “We’ve always listened to Disney, and it’s the most pump-up Disney song you can get. I jump around a lot to get my nerves out so when I’m up on the block, I’m ready to go.”
He’s reserved, but the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Wood has a lot to say.
“A lot of people don’t get how much commitment you give to swimming, and it’s just hard because you see all these basketball players and football players getting all this fame, and you see them not giving effort in practice,” Wood said. “With swimming, to get really good, you need to go hard for the whole time you train. For us, it’s two hours — morning and afternoon. It’s frustrating not to get recognition for that.”
Wood took third at this year’s 5A state meet in the 200 freestyle and ninth in the 100 freestyle. He swims a 00:47.20 in the 100 free and a 01:42.71 in the 200 free. He’s earned 27 first-place finishes and 18 in second place.
He is following his older sisters April and Mia to Colorado School of Mines in the fall where he plans to study civil engineering. He will be swimming competitively there, too.
“As soon as I met Cobi Wood, I knew there was something special about him,” Grandview boys swimming coach Ashley Peterson said. “The dedication and perseverance he had through growth and success is admirable. Cobi Wood leaves behind a legacy at Grandview High School.”
The rigorous sport of swimming has helped shape Wood not only physically, but academically and personally, too. He sat down with the Centennial Citizen to reflect on the sport, why he loves it and where he’s looking to go next.
What do you eat for pre-swim nourishment?
Whole wheat ham, cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches. I eat about four of those before the meet.
What motivates you most to excel in swimming?
My oldest sister, Mia Wood, she’s a Division II national finalist, so I always want to prove her wrong and prove I can be just as good as her, so we always have that competition with each other.
What would be a perfect performance in your sport?
For me, it’s just hitting every wall the way you want to, and digging in for that final 15 meters is crucial because that can win you the race.
What do you like to do away from sports and school?
I’m a big Pokémon fan — I play every game ever made. It’s my sister’s Game Boy Color that I play on, just like to get my mind off things, get away from life for a little while.
What is the toughest race for you to swim?
The 500 just because people call it a controlled sprint. You try to control it, but your legs get tired and your arms give out and it’s mentally hard to keep going.
When did you know you wanted to stick with swimming?
For me, I played soccer and swimming my whole life — I’ve done them both together. Soccer, it always got down on me because once you make a mistake, you can’t stop thinking about it and (how) you let your team down. That was hard on me. But with swimming, it’s all on you.
What does the sport mean to you?
Swimming for me is all about family just because you train for four hours every day with the same people. You get to know them pretty well — it’s another social life. A lot of swimmers say you don’t have social lives, (but) you know who they’re dating, what food they eat after practice — you get to know them on a different level.
How has swimming impacted your academics?
Swimming has really helped me time-manage my school life and (athletic) life. A lot of people are able to go home, relax for a few hours and then start homework. Well, I get home and eat dinner, and then I’m going to do homework just because I don’t want to be doing it until 2 a.m. like some of my friends are and then going to swimming at 4 or 5 a.m. and being all exhausted.
What would you say to someone on the fence as to whether they should try it?
With swimming, you always have a friend around just because you get to know them on a deeper level. You always have someone you can go to. You develop these deep bonds with people that you’ll know for the rest of your life.
(Swimming) most definitely impacted my personality. When I was younger and wasn’t swimming as much, I was quiet because I didn’t know how to talk to people. I was an awkward child. I still am, but I’m not as awkward.
Caeleb Dressel. How hard he works really proves how good he is.
How would you describe your Grandview team?
We’ve really something different from most teams around that we race against. I’m really the only club swimmer that swims on my team — most competitive high school swimmers are also in club teams — but we still compete with Smoky Hill and Arapahoe just because the boys train so hard. There’s really no bad trainer on the team. You look at us and think we can’t compete, but we do, and it just surprises people, I think.
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