Dominique Cooks, an 18-year-old from Federal Way, Wash., whom Park Hill High junior and cancer survivor Nick Hibbeler called his inspiration, died Tuesday night. He had been battling an inoperable brain tumor for two years.
Hibbeler, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer on July 31, last week handed Cooks his spot in the final round of the “USA Today High School Sports Most Inspirational Athlete” contest after reading Cooks’ story. Cooks had been eliminated in the semifinals. He finished third in final voting, which ended Tuesday.
“It was really sad to hear, but his story and the way he reacted to everything will always inspire me,” Hibbeler said. “It just makes you grateful for how great life is.”
Hibbeler, who played soccer between his chemotherapy sessions, never met Cooks but said he felt a connection because they were both high school athletes. Cooks played football and basketball at Decatur High School before his diagnosis ended his athletic career.
Decatur held a special graduation ceremony for Cooks in February, principal David Brower said. He was also selected the school’s homecoming king.
The Federal Way Mirror reported that Cooks slipped into a coma over the weekend.
“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn his passing,” Brower told the Federal Way Mirror. “But our spirits are lifted as we reflect on the way he has inspired us and thousands across the nation. Dom taught us that tomorrow is not a promise and to embrace each day.”