Former MSU track star Cochran to compete on American Ninja Warrior

A sign of strong athletic programs at the college level is often how many players make it to the next level. At Mississippi State, for example, the last five years have seen first round picks in the NFL, NBA, MLB and WNBA Drafts. Bulldogs have made their way to the Olympics and the PGA. The Last two summers have seen the debuts of former MSU athletes in the professional softball and women’s soccer associations.

This summer, MSU will have a first when former track star Jasmine Cochran competes on American Ninja Warrior.

Cochran featured on the sneak peek section of the American Ninja Warrior website

Cochran featured on the sneak peek section of the American Ninja Warrior website

Airing tonight on NBC at 7 p.m. central, American Ninja Warrior is a highly-entertaining battle of physical ability and mental capacity, described by NBC and Esquire as follows:

The action-packed series follows competitors as they tackle a series of challenging obstacle courses in both city qualifying and city finals rounds across the country. Those who successfully complete the finals course in their designated region move on to the national finals round in Las Vegas, where they face a stunning four-stage course modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama course in Japan. The winner will take home a grand prize of $1,000,000. Although many have come close, no competitor has yet to achieve total victory and claim the prize.

Tonight, Cochran will compete in the Houston qualifiers hoping to make it to the city finals with a trip to Las Vegas and a shot at one million on the line. Although, technically, she’s already made her attempt and learned her fate.

“But I’m not allowed to tell you what happened,” she said.

What she can tell us, however, is how she got to that point. A multi-sport standout in high school, Cochran (maiden name Walls) actually played basketball her first year of college. But when she decided that wasn’t for her, MSU track and field coach Steve Dudley convinced her to come play for him in Starkville. She obliged, and then she flourished. As a senior in 2006, she set the all-time school record in the high jump, her specialty event in both indoor and outdoor settings.

The record has since been broken by current Bulldog Erica Bougard, but Cochran says, “If the record was going to be broken, I’m told she’s a good person to do it.”

It was a bit of winding road that got Cochran to that record-setting moment in 2006, but she never felt like that was the end. Her last event as a college athlete was a competition in Tennessee, and she remembers walking off the track unfulfilled.

“When I finished, I didn’t feel finished,” Cochran said. “I was just trying to find my way.”

Her search for an athletic outlet was only encouraged by her husband James Cochran, a former MSU football player who understood the desire to compete.

Cochran receiving the phone call telling her she'd been picked

Cochran receiving the phone call telling her she’d been picked

The difficulty was in finding somewhere to do it. As Cochran pointed out, there aren’t pick-up track meets around town like basketball or softball. Some friends recommended that she should run marathons or perhaps compete in triathlons, but there’s no fun in running without an obstacle and Cochran conceded she’s not a strong swimmer, so those were out.

A few years ago, American Ninja Warrior caught her eye. She watched a season and was intrigued. She watched another the season the next year. Then finally, she decided, “I could do that.”

So Cochran, currently a personal trainer in Texas, put together an audition tape, made her submission and waited to find out if she’d be picked. We know now, she was invited to compete. It should be no surprise that a track athlete such as her would have the abilities needed.

“Track is the foundation of every other sport,” Cochran explained before going on to use the high jump as an example. “That event is very technical. You’ve got to be able to pay attention to the small things. You have to adjust your body and make quick decisions.”

Without revealing details of the competition or its outcome, Cochran did say one of the biggest things from her track days that came in handy was the versatility she had to learn for so many events.

As for how much of tonight’s program will be dedicated to Cochran, that she still does not know. Each competitor did full interviews the day before competition, with the producers left to decide how much is included in the final broadcast. A main point of conversation, as you’d imagine, was her time at MSU.

So, we wait a few more see what happens, and she waits to see how much of the interview they use.

“I did say ‘Hashtag Hail State,’” she said with a laugh.

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