They sing her praises on the track, but off it, sprinter Kou Luogon can’t catch a break from her teammates.
“We’ll be playing cards or something, and if I lose, I never hear the end of it,” she said.
But Luogon can’t say she doesn’t have it coming. Minnesota’s women’s track and field team’s prize freshman is, by her own admission, fiercely competitive.
Make that ferociously competitive.
“I can’t stand to lose in anything – cards, video games, whatever,” she said. “I talk so much trash that they let me have it when I do lose in something.”
The approach seems to have worked well so far for Luogon, however; the Park Center, Minn., native is already rewriting Minnesota’s record book.
Luogon finished third in the 400-meter dash at the Big Ten indoor championships, breaking the school record in the process. Additionally, she ran the anchor leg on the Gophers’ conference indoor champion 4×400-meter relay – propelling the squad to Minnesota’s first-ever Big Ten relay title.
“For anybody to succeed at this level, you need a chip on your shoulder – that attitude that says, ‘I’m going to run you down,’ ” coach Gary Wilson said. “She’s feisty, but I like that in a kid.”
Luogon’s feistiness doesn’t stop with her competitors, either; she spends almost as much time talking trash about herself.
To listen to Luogon discuss her own talent is like taking in a Rodney Dangerfield comedy routine.
For instance, take the time during her senior year of high school when she was thrown in the triple jump “just for fun,” and wound up winning the event at the Henry Sibley relays with a leap of 38-4, nearly four inches longer than the state meet record.
Later last year, Luogon finished second in the triple jump at the state meet. Not bad for a kid doing the event as a hobby.
“I have no form whatsoever,” she said. “I don’t have any idea what I’m doing. I really don’t know what to tell you.”
Luogon’s illustrious high school career, which included runner-up finishes in the 200- and 400-meter dashes in the state meet, landed her a partial scholarship at perennial powerhouse Arkansas.
Luogon verbally committed to run for the Razorbacks, who finished 10th in the NCAA indoor championships this spring.
But when Minnesota called with a full scholarship, she couldn’t pass it up. Luogon signed a letter of intent with the Gophers in July.
“It’s strange to think what it might have been like to be at Arkansas,” she said. “But I couldn’t afford to go out of state without a full ride, and I’m not dissatisfied with where I’m at.”
Sprint coach Matt Bingle, for one, is thankful Luogon decided to stay close to home.
“She’s the kind of kid you can build a program around,” Bingle said. “It’s a blessing to have someone like her.”
Luogon will run in the 400-meter dash at the Duke Invitational this weekend. Additionally, she will triple jump for the first time since hurting her shin last fall.
“I’ve supposedly learned a bunch of stuff, so it should be better,” she joked. “I’m not expecting much, but we’ll see.”
All kidding aside, however, Wilson sees no limit to Luogon’s horizons as long as the freshman maintains the tenacity she shows at the card table.
“She certainly can be a Big Ten champ, an All-American, lead a couple relays to nationals,” Wilson said. “She’s got the drive to do it all.”
Ben Goessling covers track and field and welcomes comments at [email protected]