NEWPORT — Cooper Hamilton is an 18-year-old senior from Frontier High School who spends her days at Washington Sate Community College where she is a general science transfer student and will graduate with an Associate of Science Degree in the spring.
Hamilton said her interest in science started in middle school.
“In seventh grade, I had a lot of teachers, specifically Michael Kahlig (former science teacher at Frontier High School and current admission counselor at Marietta College), and his class was the first time I really got a grasp for it and felt good about it. And since then, I’ve been kind of drawn to it, and he was a big factor in that,” Hamilton said. “It was kind of the first class that clicked with me. It wasn’t like, ‘I have to go do homework for class,’ I was actually eager to learn about it. And I’ve just been really interested in it since.”
At Frontier High School Hamilton is a member of the National Honor Society, has been involved with student government and student council since eighth grade and is a member of the varsity track team. Hamilton said there wasn’t a defining moment that sparked her interest in track but said Kahlig did play a part in getting her involved.
“It was very random, me starting it,” Hamilton said. “Mike (Kahlig) was one of the coaches and he kind of drew me into it and I’ve been doing it since. There was never really a pivotal moment. I just kind of did it and stuck with it.”
Hamilton said she runs the 200-meter dash, and participates in some relays, but the event she’s strongest in is the 100-meter dash.
“Shortest, fastest, and that’s the one I’m best at,” Hamilton said.
Due to COVID restrictions, Hamilton didn’t get to participate in track her freshman year of high school but, it was the 100-meter dash that took her to her first regional track meet her sophomore year.
“That was really crazy for me because I didn’t have a freshman year,” Hamilton said. “So, basically my sophomore year was my freshman year and I made it to regionals with 88 different teams. Which was huge, and really eye-opening. You don’t realize how many people that is. There were a lot of different athletes, and a lot of crazy skilled athletes. And it was really cool just to experience that. Even if I wasn’t there to go to state and win, just to be there was super cool.”
Hamilton said practice and conditioning for the track team will begin in February and meets should begin in March.
Hamilton’s athletic ability isn’t just limited to track and field. She has been dancing with Gel’s Dance Centre since age 2 and has been dancing competitively since age 7. Hamilton said her mother, Michele Hamilton, has her own studio in St. Marys and is also the Senior Competitive Director at Gel’s Dance Center, and that she dances for both. She said competitive dancing takes a lot of hard work, commitment and practice. She said practices last two hours and can be two or three times a week. She said learning choreography can push practices to eight hours.
“I don’t think people realize how much work goes into dance,” Hamilton said. “How much time it takes to clean your routines, get them ready, get costumes ready, prepare yourself, all of that. It’s kind of an underappreciated aspect of it.”
Hamilton said routines are thoroughly planned out, as well.
“We have our competitive practices start in summer,” Hamilton said. “We will learn all of our dances then and we don’t start competing until February. So, I’ve had my routines for this year set since August of last year. It’s a very pre-planned thing.”
Hamilton said choreographers such as Rudy Abreu, who has done work with Jennifer Lopez, J Balvin, and Bebe Rexa. and Misha Gabriel, who has worked with Justin Timberlake, Alisha Keys, and Pharrell, will come in and help setup routines and get the dancers ready for the competitive season.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity and I’ve met so many amazing people,” Hamilton said. “They set our dances for us, they come in and teach them to us, and we work on them from there. … It’s definitely intimidating when they come in. But I do love it. It’s a really fun atmosphere, and competing and recitals are really exciting. And I’m enjoying those still.”
Hamilton will end her competitive dancing career after this year. She said she has no plans to continue dancing competitively but would continue to dance in her free time.
Hamilton may not have much of that when she begins her collegiate career at Ohio University this fall.
“I’ve been drawn to OU for awhile,” Hamilton said. She said she attended a dance camp there her eighth grade year and got to perform during the halftime of a sporting event.
“And I was really drawn to the atmosphere there,” Hamilton said. “Their campus is obviously beautiful, and it was just a really good experience. I’ve just kind of been drawn to it since. Their fields, and what I want to study, are really good there and I just think it’s a really good fit for me.
Hamilton said she plans to continue her study of science and will be a biological science major at OU. She said she hasn’t narrowed down what specific field she wants to enter, though.
“I’m hoping to go into pre-med,” Hamilton said. “I’m thinking physical therapy, which I have plans to shadow a friend of mine in that, but still not 100% sure on that. But I do know I want to do something science and medical related.”
In her free time Hamilton, who is an only child, said she enjoys hanging out with her two dogs Moose and Woodson and describes them as her siblings. She said she goes to the gym with her father, Aaron Hamilton, and tries to attend as many concerts as she can.
“There’s just something about seeing a performance and I feel like as a dancer, I can appreciate that more,” Hamilton said. “Like, how much thought goes into absolutely every detail of a concert. Like stage setup, sound, choreography, what you’re going to wear, how you’re going to look, all of that. I feel like those are the things that I kind of look at more than the average person does. And it’s just really cool to see all the effort that’s put into it.”