The University of Colorado cross country/track programs have recently been led by one outstanding runner: Jenny Barringer.
However, with Barringer now graduated, another upperclassman is ready to step up: Emma Coburn.
Coburn, a rising junior from Crested Butte, will run in both cross country and track, having already made a name for herself. She placed second in last season’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the steeplechase and first in the same event at the Big 12 Championships in May.
Coburn’s second-place finish nationally led to her earning the prestigious title of All-American. This, Coburn says, is her most treasured accomplishment.
“Getting second at nationals and saying I’m an All-American is really exciting, and the title of All-American is something that you can kind of say forever,” she says. “That was nice to get.”
Coburn is also the USA Junior record holder in the steeplechase. In her win at the Big 12 Championships, she set a meet record and won by almost seven seconds. Fortunately, these accolades just add to her motivation.
“Athletically, it’s if you do something well once, you want to do it again and you want to beat yourself. I think if I wasn’t performing well and I was working this hard and it just wasn’t showing in my races — if I was losing and running slow — I would not be motivated at all,” Coburn says. “The fact that it’s all working, it’s paying off, and I’m performing well, that definitely motivates me to keep working harder.”
Besides personal motivation, Coburn says her coaches have developed her work ethic and perspective on her own performance in running.
“My coaches have transformed me from this OK high school runner who no one’s heard about to a pretty good collegian who has a chance to make it to a World Championship or maybe an Olympics,” she says. “Mentally they’ve definitely prepared me and made me feel more comfortable.”
Her teammates also provide support for her, especially during training.
“It’s just nice to have people going through the same things you’re going through and to understand the pain of racing and the pain of practice and how tiring it is,” Coburn says.
Coburn will have some major support around her in cross country. The Buffs have three runners from the top 15 finishers at the Big 12 Championships: sophomores Laura Tremblay and Allie McLaughlin, and senior Laura Thweatt.
In track, sophomore Shalaya Kipp will compete alongside Coburn in the steeplechase. Kipp was the fourth-place finisher in the women’s steeplechase at the Big 12 Championships last season.
Both teams will have to cope with the loss of Barringer, but Coburn is optimistic the Buffs can still perform well.
“Jenny wasn’t around this year in track, and Shalaya and I figured it out and did well,” she says. “Her biggest impact, I think, would be in cross country, but because our team is coming back so strong this year, I don’t think it’s going to be that tremendous of an impact.”
As cross country season approaches, mental preparation will be key for the young Buffs, who currently have 14 underclassmen and only four upperclassmen on the women’s roster.
“I think if we all just focus, do the job, and treat it as a business, that you’re going to the line to do your job and get it done — as long as we don’t break mentally — I think physically we will be fine,” Coburn says. “It’s just getting that mental game.”
Coburn knows that her opportunity to run and compete for CU is special. Hopefully she can help continue the dominance that the CU running programs have held for so long.
“To say that you’re on the cross country/track team here — people know what that means, and they know that has weight to it, and they know that it’s a big deal to be on this team,” Coburn says. “I’m also proud of the fact that our team has done so well historically and that we’re still doing well. It’s really fun to be on a team like this.”