Lorri Kokkola was a track and field standout in the 1980s who excelled in the throwing events. A three-time All-American at the University of Western Kentucky and the University of Texas, she represented Canada on the international stage. Kokkola has also developed many outstanding athletes as a coach.
Kokkola was born in Windsor on August 25, 1960.
At Riverside Secondary School, which she attended from 1974 to ’79, Kokkola competed in volleyball, basketball, and track and field – particularly the throwing events. Kokkola’s Junior basketball team at Riverside won the WSSA and SWOSSA Championships, and her Senior volleyball squad won back-to-back WSSA and SWOSSA titles. In her Grade 12 year, Kokkola reached the OFSAA Volleyball All-Ontario quarterfinals, distinguishing her team as one of the eight best in the province. In Kokkola’s final year of high school, Riverside went one better to reach the OFSAA semifinals.
Track and field was Kokkola’s strongest sport. She won a total of 32 high school track and field medals at the local, regional, and provincial levels. Her career haul included 15 WSSA medals (11 gold, 4 silver), 13 SWOSSA medals (8 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze), and 4 OFSAA medals (2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze). Kokkola won 10 of her 21 gold medals in javelin, 6 in discus, and 4 in shot put. She added a solitary gold in the 4×100 relay.
Kokkola competed for the Windsor Legion outside of school. As a Midget, she won a gold medal in javelin at the 1974 Canadian Legion Meet. She finished fourth in the same event at the 1977 Canada Games in Newfoundland, and represented Canada as a member of the National Junior Team at a dual meet against France in ’78. She won gold in discus and bronze in javelin and shot put at the 1978 Canadian Junior Championships.
After high school, Kokkola earned a full athletic scholarship to Western Kentucky University, which competed in the Ohio Valley Conference. Kokkola spent two years at the school, winning javelin gold medals at the conference level in 1979-80 and ’80-81. She added a discus silver and shot put bronze in the latter season. She was inducted into the Western Kentucky University and Ohio Valley Conference Halls of Fame in 1990.
Kokkola spent her final two years of university at the University of Texas, where she competed in the Southwest Conference and was twice named All-American. Kokkola won a gold medal in javelin at the ’81-82 AIAW National Championships and a silver medal at the ’82-83 NCAA National Championships. She eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Texas in 1983. Later in life, she added a Master of Education (Physical Education) from Southwest Texas State University in ’94.
Kokkola competed in javelin at five consecutive Canadian Senior Championships between 1986 and ’90. She won gold in ’89 and silver at the other four competitions. Her gold medal at the ’89 Francophone Games in Morocco, also in Javelin, was Canada’s first international track and field gold following Ben Johnson’s forfeiture at the 1988 Olympics. Before the end of her career, Kokkola also competed at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand.
Kokkola enjoyed an impressive coaching career following her retirement from competitive track and field. She served as the Assistant Strength Coach at the University of Texas between 1981 and ’91 and was a Graduate Assistant with Southwest Texas State’s throwing event athletes from ’91 to ’94. Kokkola became Women’s Coach for throwing events at Penn State University, a job she held from ’94 to ’95. There, she coached two All-Americans and several Big 10 Conference Champions. Kokkola moved on to the University of Kansas, where she worked with several All-Americans and Big 12 Conference Champions in javelin, shot put, discuss, and hammer throw as an Assistant Coach. She held the position from ’95 to 2000. Notably, she worked with Windsor’s Scott Russell, who became the Canadian record holder in javelin and ascended to 13th in the world rankings. She also developed Andrea Bulat, an All-American.
In 2002, having returned home, she signed up as a volunteer coach with the University of Windsor and the Windsor Legion Track Club while also coaching unattached athletes in the Windsor area. In 2003, she travelled with Canada to the Pan Am Games in the Dominican Republic as an assistant coach. By 2004, the time of her induction, she was working with the University and the Legion plus East Detroit High School.