Former WWU track and field star and Nooksack Valley High School coach Cooper Cummings flew overseas to take home the big cheese: first place in the men’s downhill race at the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake contest May 29 in Gloucester, England.
The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake, an annual event attracting thousands of local spectators and tourists alike, involves participants racing down a 200-yard hill, chasing a 7- to 9-pound, wheel-shaped piece of cheese, rolling at speeds up to 70 miles per hour.
The event is considered dangerous due to the steep incline and uneven surface of the hill, and has been canceled several times out of concern for the health and safety of the runners. This year’s women's category winner — Delaney Irving of Nanaimo, British Columbia — suffered a head injury after being knocked unconscious while running.
Cummings usurped Chris Anderson, a contestant who holds the record for winning the race 23 times, including in 2022.
The Bellingham athlete posted an all-time record of 13 seconds (30 mph), turning heads with his first appearance win.
“[Anderson’s] the GOAT and king of the race,” Cummings said. “[I] figured I had a good chance of winning because last year was supposedly his last race, and I wouldn’t have to go up against him. However, when it was my turn to race, he started walking up the hill and everyone started pointing and whispering.”
Although Cummings was aware that Anderson, who is known to win a race and then climb back up the hill and run again, was expected to win another title, it didn’t discourage him from competing — nor did it dampen his confidence.
“My strategy was to match his speed and then pull away at the end,” Cummings said of Anderson. “Luckily, that’s what happened.”
While this was Cummings’ first year doing it, running in the cheese-rolling contest has been a lifelong dream. He traveled to Europe for a few days for the occasion, with his girlfriend, Mollie Olsen — a former WWU women’s basketball player and 2022 NCAA Women’s National Runner-Up.
“I came across the cheese-rolling video when I was in middle school,” Cummings said. “I’ve wanted to do it ever since I saw that.”
Cooper Cummings is swarmed by members of the media after usurping longtime cheese-rolling winner Chris Anderson. (Photo courtesy of Cooper Cummings)
Cummings’ win immediately launched him into the national spotlight as reporters and photographers swarmed him after his win.
“It was definitely one of the most exciting and memorable moments of my life,” he said.