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Examiner
  • Asia Cole: Determined to be the best, athletically and academically

  • Asia Cole has had a pretty miraculous two years already at Fort Osage High School.



    A three-sport athlete, she is a state champion in both the shot put and discus, with dreams of one day making it to the Olympics. But there is more to the Fort Osage junior, who credits one person for her remarkable ascension in both athletics and academics.

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  • Asia Cole has had a pretty miraculous two years already at Fort Osage High School.
    A three-sport athlete, she is a state champion in both the shot put and discus, with dreams of one day making it to the Olympics. But there is more to the Fort Osage junior, who credits one person for her remarkable ascension in both athletics and academics.
    “It has always been me and my mom,” she said. “She has taught me to be very independent and to go out and get what I want. She doesn’t push me competitively, she pushes me to do what I am comfortable doing and to do my best.”
    Growing up
    Unlike a lot of students in Fort Osage, Cole is not originally from the area. She moved to Independence as a second grader from Cleveland, Ohio. Her mother, Leslie Cole, is a teacher and sports manager, who managed Betty Lennox at the time. Lennox spent three years at Fort Osage High School before moving on to college basketball and later to the WNBA.
    “It was a big culture shock to move here,” Asia said. “I came from this big city to an elementary school that was the size of one class at the high school (in Cleveland).”
    But Cole eventually began to adjust to life in suburban Kansas City. Born to be an athlete, she started playing a variety of sports. And to say that athletics is in her blood is a huge understatement. Her father, Robert Burnett, played for 14 years in the NFL and has two Super Bowl rings with the Baltimore Ravens; her mother played volleyball and softball as well as basketball at Kent State University; her grandfather was track star and Cole has cousins who played sports for Oregon State and the University of California-Berkeley.
    “I come from a family who works really hard for everything they get,” she said. “My grandmother did not go to college, but she worked hard for what she wanted. We may be spread all over the country, but my family is still very close. We communicate a lot with each other, and they all are supportive.”
    Cole says her best friend remains her mother.
    “We have always been close. I would choose my mom over my friends any day of the week,” she said. “She is very hard on me, but I know it is because she cares about me. She has gone through things I haven’t yet in school, life and sports, so of course I listen to her. My dad hasn’t really been in my life, so it has been just me and my mom. I really don’t feel like I have missed out on much. She is terrific.”
    Born to run
    Page 2 of 3 - Cole is a three-sport athlete, competing in volleyball, basketball and track and field. She said when she started track two years ago, she had no intention of doing anything but running.
    “I wanted to run. I honestly thought the throwing events were kind of dumb,” she said. “Who wants to throw? No one wants to watch that.”
    But once Cole started in both the shot put and discus, she not only liked both events, she loved them. At her first state championship competition as a freshman, she came in second in shot put and seventh in discus. One year later, everything changed as she won state titles in both.
    “I didn’t get the magnitude of winning those events at first. It wasn’t until I got home that I really understood it,” she said. “I was so thankful for the success I had last year. It was pretty amazing.”
    Sean Barrett, the varsity volleyball coach at Fort Osage, said Cole’s athletic ability is “amazing.” He said, however, that is no more impressive than her character and leadership qualities.
    “Asia chooses to lead by example. Her work ethic is outstanding and always finds the positive words for tough situation,” he said. “As she has grown older, she has become more of a vocal leader, but still remains positive in almost every situation. I don’t know what she intends on doing in the future but whatever she chooses, she’ll be successful at it, and those people she works with will love having her around.”
    Not just an athlete
    Cole may be a phenomenal athlete, but she stresses that academics come first.
    “If my grades start to slip, then I don’t get to go to practice until they come up,” she said. “My mom has always pushed academics, and they do come first.”
    Cole has a 3.8 grade point average, which includes a schedule full of advanced classes. She is also a member of the Student Council and has plans to run for president as a senior.
    “Sure, it’s a lot sometimes when I don’t get home until 6 or 7 and have eight pages of homework,” she said. “It can also get difficult during the long sports seasons. But I get everything done somehow.”
    Cole has some tough career aspirations too. She wants to attend Stanford University and become a chemist. She said science is her favorite subject, and she grew up loving to find out how something worked.
    “I have always been fascinated with the outdoors. I love blowing things up or catching something on fire. I am just into science,” she said. “It has always been my favorite. Not the easiest, but my favorite.”
    Visiting the West Coast often to see her uncle, Cole fell in love with the environment. She said she knows Stanford could be a long shot, but that isn’t stopping her for reaching for it anyway.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Ever since I was really young, I wanted to go to a really big school and always on the West Coast,” she said. “Everyone would ask me MU or KU? I would say Stanford. I hope I make it as an athlete, but I understand if I don’t.”
    Working hard
    Cole said she works hard for everything that has come to her, either in athletics or academics.
    “I just see a tunnel and I know that if I work hard, I can make it to where I want to be,” she said. “Not only can I accomplish something, but let others know that they too can work hard for what they want.”
    Working hard will come in handy for another one of her goals – to make it on the U.S. Track and Field Team at an Olympic games. Cole competed in the USA Track and Field National meet over the summer in Baltimore after coming in first in both discus and shot put at the USATF Region 9 Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.
    “I was obsessed with the Olympics. I recorded everything,” she said. “I saw what I would need to do to improve my distance in order to qualify. In discus, it is 40 feet longer from where I am now. I figure that is 10 more feet a year. I am hoping I make it with a little hard work.”
    Cole knows that means extra time in the gym and lifting weights, something she has never done before. She said she also needs to work on her technique in discus in order to be lighter on her feet.
    But her next goal is something she is hoping to reach this year – break the state record in shot put.
    “I found out that I was a foot from the state record in shot put and that is something I definitely want to meet thus year,” said. “I am thankful for everything I have in my life. I think it is important not to expect anything to be handed to you. Work hard for everything you get, and eventually the goals you set will be met.”
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