The Last Leg: Cal's Coe Runs Toward a Historic Finish
by Allison Yee
After running as California's No. 2 or 3 runner at the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Championships, senior Michael Coe is ready to lead the Golden Bears in his final season after a redshirt year and is determined to have a historic finish.
The school record-holder in the mile, Coe finished 21st at the 2008 Pac-10 Championships and 51st at the 2008 NCAA Championships. He was named MPSF Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year after finishing second in the 3000 meters at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championships and anchoring Cal's third-place distance medley relay team.
The Bears are looking to return to the NCAA Championships after a one-year absence. Their appearances in 2007 and 2008 were the first in school history.
As the Golden Bears approach the Pac-10 Championships, to be held Saturday, Oct. 30 at Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle, Coe is embracing being back in cross country.
"It feels great to be back in cross country mode again," said Coe. "The team aspect of cross country is special. It felt very strange not being able to compete with the team last fall. It was the first time in seven years I didn't have a cross country season. Now that I am back in uniform, I am determined to make my last season the best, and I can feel the energy of the team responding the same way."
Coe is one of three senior leaders on the squad, along with Steve Sodaro and Kari Karlsson. The three provide important experience for the Bears, and are close friends in addition to teammates. Coe says all three are on a mission to make the 2010 season the best ever.
In order to do so, Coe's personal goals are about helping the Bears succeed as a team.
"It's all about the team," he said. "Whatever individual goals I set will be in line with what can help the team do its absolute best. I'd like to have my best race at NCAAs and hopefully bring some of my elder teammates up to All-American placing with me."
Coe has already paced the Cal men in his two outings this season. At the Stanford Invitational on Sept. 25, he took fifth to lead the Bears to a fifth-place team finish. In his second race, the competitive Pre-NCAA Invitational, Coe placed seventh as Cal finished higher than a trio of ranked teams.
After finishing fourth in the 1,500 meters at the 2010 Pac-10 Track & Field Championships, Coe felt the season did not meet his expectations. He is drawing on those results and his sophomore year success to propel him to the next level.
"I am more motivated to do what worked for me in the past and get that momentum back with a good, solid season," he said.
Because of his experience, Coe understands his role as a leader and educator for younger runners on the team.
"I know my attitude reflects the team as a whole, so I try to stay positive and encouraging," said Coe. "Since I have been around for a long time, I think guys look up to me and respect my input. I remember what it was like to be a young runner who just wanted to blast workouts everyday. I've learned you have to pick and choose the days you run hard and the days you recover. That is something I try to emphasize."
As the Bears gear up for the Pac-10 Championships field that will include No. 1 Stanford and No. 3 Oregon, Coe believes their training has prepared them to peak for the most important meets of the season.
"With harder and longer workouts, there's no doubt in my mind we should get to Nationals," he said.
As Coe completes his final year in Berkeley, he reflects on the athletic and academic opportunities he has been able to take advantage of.
"Being a student-athlete at Cal combines the best of both worlds," said Coe. "Academically, getting a Berkeley education is a challenging yet rewarding experience. There are so many prestigious undergraduate programs here with some of the most brilliant professors in the world to learn from. Athletically, competing in the Pac-10 gives us the chance to run against the best in the nation all the time."
A media studies major, Coe hopes to work in sports marketing following graduation. Completing a summer internship with a firm in San Francisco reinforced his interest in studying marketing. He has enjoyed his classes in mass media, television and integrated marketing communications.
As Coe looks ahead to a career in sports marketing and training rigorously for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, he will hold close the lessons gained during his time in Berkeley.
"I have grown as a person," Coe said. "Throughout my time, I have had mixtures of success and frustration, all of which have made me a stronger person. I know that I am much more prepared for post-graduate life next year because of the experiences here at Berkeley."
Follow Coe and the Bears they prepare for the Pac-10 Championships on Oct. 30 in Seattle.
Photo courtesy: goldenbearsports.com