Childhood friends lead Greenwave in senior season | NevadaAppeal.com

Childhood friends lead Greenwave in senior season

Thomas Ranson
lvnsports@yahoo.com
Seniors John Cooley and Taylor Ingram have known each other since birth and became standout student-athletes for the Greenwave.
Thomas Ranson / LVN

They’re not your traditional sibling duo.

Separated by 17 days at birth and hailing from two families, John Cooley and Taylor Ingram began a unique journey together.

From causing trouble together in childcare to countless family trips to the lake to playing computer games together, putting each other on speaker phone, John and Taylor have grown into standout student-athletes in the Fallon community. They will be graduating from Churchill County High School this spring.

But while the curtain has closed on Taylor’s athletic career — she played volleyball in the fall — John’s still going strong. He and the Greenwave boys basketball team are on the verge of the program’s first state appearance since the 1980s.

But before these two became stars on the court, they became great friends.

Bringing 2 families together

Both families met 20 years ago through law enforcement when Jeff Cooley worked as a jail deputy for Rich Ingram, the sheriff at the time. Brenda was working for the justice court as the chief court clerk in the early 1990s when she met Jeff. The Ingrams met Jamie when she began dating Jeff and attended their wedding in 1999, the same year Jamie began working for Oasis Collections.

Since the birth of their children, they grew close together.

Taylor arrived ahead of schedule on June 20, 2001, and John followed almost two weeks later on July 7.

Both Taylor and John were enrolled into the same daycare, St. John’s Room to Grow Childcare, and were with each other every day until grade school began.

“We definitely caused a lot of trouble at daycare together,” Taylor said. “We were just crazy. I remember always being together and geocaching with his dad. But daycare was my first impression. We were always causing trouble.”

Since meeting each other after birth to going to the same childcare, Taylor and John’s relationship rivals that of siblings. They may not be blood relatives but they sure act like brother and sister.

“They were the dynamic duo in daycare, always playing and getting in trouble together,” Brenda said. “They have had sleepovers since they were 2 because Jamie was one of very few people on the planet that I trusted to take care of Taylor overnight.”

The Ingrams feel like they’ve inherited a son in John. He’s been with the family on many vacations at Donner Lake, camping and fishing trips, and even tennis matches.

“John is and has always been our go-to friend,” Brenda said. “It helps that he’s also a terrific kid.”

And Taylor’s relationship with the Cooleys has impacted their younger child, Sierra.

“We love Taylor as if she was our own and even our daughter looks up to Taylor like a big sister,” Jamie said.

And like any sibling rivalry, Taylor and John were competitive with each other, especially in sports.

“There’s been times we’ve gotten into all-out wrestling wars when we were little just to see who would win,” Taylor recalled. “With sports, we just wanted to one-up each other on everything. It was all friendly though. We didn’t hate each other.”

Rivalry aside, John views Taylor as a go-to friend.

“We have always had a very easy going friendship and we knew we could count on each other if needed,” he said. “Taylor has always been the one I turn to if I have ever needed help with school assignments or projects as well. I remember Taylor coming to watch me play baseball on several occasions, as well as basketball and I have also watched her play softball and volleyball throughout the years.”

Six years later, the Cooleys welcomed their second child, Sierra. Taylor, has two siblings, Tyler Ingram, 36, is the district attorney in Elko and Colby Ingram, 32, owns Heck’s Meat Co., in Fallon.

A deadly sharpshooter on the floor

John played basketball competitively for the first time when he was in fifth grade but he didn’t start to love the sport until high school. After playing two years of high school football, John realized he wanted to focus on basketball.

Day and night, he practiced in the gym, on the city courts and now at his house after his father put up a hoop in their backyard. He was bumped up to JV halfway through his freshman season and then made varsity during his sophomore year.

“After deciding not to play football my junior year, this freed up a lot of time for me to be able to work on basketball,” John said.

During his sophomore year, John worked with Donald Schank, who was then the assistant coach for the Greenwave, by meeting with him early in the mornings for open gym.

“I would always attend any open gyms that were available,” John said. “The summer after my sophomore year, I spent hours at the Venturacci Gym working on my shots. I thought shooting 3’s was a lot of fun and just really started focusing on them.”

Schank, who served many years as a top assistant for the Greenwave and coached many travel teams, said his phone would ring non-stop. And he didn’t even have to check the caller ID. He knew it was John.

“A lot of times, he would just call me, ‘can we get in the gym? Can we get in the gym?’” Schank said. “Those are the kind of kids who want to (get better). They want to improve their skills.”

Schank knew right away that John was a good shooter. But what made him better also made him special and an example to follow. Teammates Elijah Jackson and Thomas Steele also joined Cooley for open gym.

“I could see he was a pretty good shooter with good mechanics,” said Schank, who’s in his second year as the Oasis Academy boys basketball coach. “We would come before school for an hour and a half and just shoot five times a week. When it was summer, we would shoot a couple times a week.”

The many days put in the offseason paid off as a junior when he helped Chelle Dalager in her first year, leading the Greenwave to a second-place finish in league and just missing the state tournament by one game. He credits Dalager playing a key role in his success – and the team’s – which began when Dalager took the team to multiple camps, including twice at Gonzaga.

As a junior, John led the league in 3-point percentage (minimum 70 attempts), sinking almost half of his shots (43 percent) and he also finished third with 41 made 3-pointers. As a result, he was named to the all-league second team and Fallon picked up the state academic team championship, too.

But now, he’s even better.

“What’s changed is offensively, he has the confidence now,” Dalager said of his progression. “He shoots lights out. If you don’t see him at our gym or his house shooting, you see him at Venturacci. He went from an OK shooter to a big threat.”

John leads the 3A state in 3-pointers made with 49 (eight more than last season) and is ranked third in the state for senior guards. Any free time he had, he spent in the gym – even if it meant crashing Schank’s Bighorns practices or pregame warmups.

“He even comes down and shoots with my kids once in a while. Sometimes, he comes before games,” Schank said. “He just jumps right in with our shooting drills. He’s just a kid who loves to do that.”

When he’s not punishing teams from long distance, John works as a lifeguard for the city of Fallon during the summer and is currently working at the Venturacci Gym. John’s also been strong in the classroom maintaining above a 3.50 grade-point average, including a 4.0 this year.

The best outside hitting hunter in the valley

Taylor was unsure if she would play volleyball again after having hip surgery in January 2018 to repair an injury from a workout during club season.

After playing her junior year through pain incurred from her club season injury and subsequent hip surgery, the doctor was strict on Taylor’s recovery – six months – but she persevered.

“There was a good chance that I wasn’t going to be able to play,” Taylor said. “I had to miss a lot of the open gyms and everything, and almost the whole summer. The season I came back, I was still trying to get into the mix.”

Taylor, who also maintains a 4.024 grade-point average and is a member of the National Honor Society, focused solely on volleyball in high school, playing her final two years on varsity, including being the team captain last fall. She was also named an all-academic honoree during those two seasons.

Like any club season, Taylor and Brenda traveled to Reno two to three times a week for practice during the winter and spring, not returning home until 11 p.m. occasionally.

“It was a fun experience. Journey (Martin) and I would carpool together and do our homework,” Taylor said. “We got to meet new girls and make new friends. It was a different environment than high school. It was just your age group and everyone got along together.”

During the NNJ season, tournaments are rarely in Reno, which meant several trips over the hill to California to compete during those three years with Northern Nevada Juniors. Still, it was an experience worth repeating if they had to do it all over again.

“The tournaments over the weekend were super fun,” Taylor said. “They took a lot of time but I would do it again if I could. The coaches are really amazing. They really pride themselves on working with each girl individually.”

The hard work during club paid off, especially in Taylor’s final season playing for Patty Daum. Playing for Daum’s club team before high school gave Taylor insight into the Greenwave program and Daum’s coaching style. With the club team being new, Taylor found a love for the outside hitter position although her height was at a disadvantage.

But that didn’t bother her.

“I placed the ball where the other team wasn’t. I really wasn’t worried about my height,” she said. “I worked hard for it.”

Not the tallest player on the court – far from it – the 5-foot-3 Taylor never backed out and hit with the intensity of her taller teammates. Taylor was named to the all-3A Northern League second team as an outside hitter after racking up 83 kills, 83 points, 17 blocks and a team-high 125 digs.

And she did it with a broken index finger from earlier in the season.

“The doctor wanted to put my hand in a cast. It’s just a finger. It’ll be fine,” said Taylor, who, at 14, began working during the summer at JK Llamas nursey and then she returned to her roots as a teacher’s aide at St. John’s childcare. “Even now, my finger’s stiff. I can’t bend it as much I used to. It was worth it to play. I’ve been through worse. It wasn’t that bad.”

Off the court, Taylor hunts big game – and she’s pretty good at it.

Taylor has a strong bond with her older brother, Tyler, as he helped her get involved with hunting when she was 13. One year later, Taylor snagged her first big kill by taking down a bull elk in one shot. She also added a cow elk and two four-point bucks.

“Ever since I was little, my dad and brothers would go hunt and they had a fun time,” Taylor recalled. “The first second I could hunt, I did. From there, it just took off. That amazing experience made me want to hunt for the rest of my life.”

Tyler strongly believes that his sister is the best hunter in the family.

“Hunting means different things to different people, but when I reflect on all of the time I have spent hunting, the best times were spent with my family,” Tyler said. “Watching Taylor excel at school and sports was amazing, but literally being by her side on all of her hunts means the world to me. Fate made us siblings, but hunting made us buddies. She is a natural and I’m convinced that she is the best hunter in our family.”

When both John and Taylor walk up to the graduation podium in May, both the Cooleys and Ingrams will look back on their children’s athletic careers with the Greenwave.

While Taylor has already ruled out playing volleyball in college – she plans on attending the University of Nevada, Reno to become a dermatologist – the Cooleys are hopeful that John will continue his basketball career.

Both families are embracing for the day when John and Taylor will not be around. They know it will be difficult but at the same time, both families have made memories that will last a lifetime.