Colorado's Coburn Aims For Olympics
By Alex Shoemaker
Born in Boulder, Colo., Emma Coburn lived down the road from the college she would eventually compete for. At the age of nine, Emma and her family moved from Boulder to the small mountain town of Crested Butte, Colo.
"I was born in Boulder, but moved at nine to Crested Butte, just across the state," says Coburn. "I've always been close to the school."
In high school, Coburn found quick success at running, an all-state runner all four years she competed, an all-American twice and breaking five school records. While Coburn excelled as a high school runner, she never thought that she would one day be a collegiate athlete at her hometown school.
"I never thought I would be good enough to run for CU," Coburn says. "Historically the distance program has been so successful. I didn't think I was good enough."
In her senior year of high school, Coburn competed in the 2,000-meter steeplechase at the 2008 Nike Outdoor Nationals finishing in second place with the fifth fastest time in recorded high school track and field history.
As Emma began to wind down her high school career, she began to receive attention from colleges interested in her for cross country and track and field teams. For Coburn, the recruiting process began with visits to the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia, the two schools who spent the most timing recruiting her.
"I really liked both visits I took, and I felt comfortable going to either school," say Coburn. "When CU told me they wanted me, I knew it was where I wanted to go - where I always wanted to go."
Being so close to home, Coburn says she has had a lot of family support along her path.
"Pretty much everyone in my family who has gone to college has gone to CU," says Coburn. "My dad's business is actually based here in Boulder, and my family comes to all of my events here and the close ones on the road."
Now in her senior season with the Buffaloes, Emma competes in the mile run during the indoor season and the 1,500-meter run but finds most of her success in the steeplechase.
"The 1,500 is my favorite race, but it sometimes conflicts with the steeple," says Coburn. "I focus on the steeple because it's what I'm best at."
When asked about her goals for the season, she says she would like the team and herself to reach their potential.
"For the team, I would like to see a top-three (NCAA) finish," says Coburn. "The women's field is so deep so we could end up anywhere from first to sixth depending on the competition that day. For me I would like to finish as an All-American again, then hopefully make the Olympic team."
Coburn is seventh all-time in Colorado history in the 1,000-meter (2:52:43), sixth fastest in the 800-meter (2:09:81), fourth in the 1,500 (4:12.97) and second in the steeplechase with a time of 9:37.16.
With her college career quickly coming to an end, Coburn is preparing to compete for the 2012 USA Olympic team. Each athlete must run a sub-9:43 mark in the steeple between May 1 and the Olympic Trials in late June of 2012 in order to be eligible for the team. It didn't take her very long to reach that mark.
"I hit the Olympic A-Standard time (9:40:05) on my first attempt at it," Coburn says. "Now I just have to keep improving until the Olympic Trials."
Coburn completed in last year's World Championships for the USA, recording personal bests across the board and improving her steeple time dramatically. She has until June 24, 2012 when the Olympic Trials will be held in Eugene, Ore., for the opportunity to run for Team USA.
"I think every kid dreams of being an Olympic athlete, in whatever sport they like," Coburn says. "I didn't take running seriously until my last few years of high school, and I just wanted to make a college team. It wasn't a real dream because it seemed so out of reach to me. It's been the last few years that I've wanted this."
Coburn has already proven she can post a fast enough time, and now needs a top-three finish in the Olympic Trials to be able to compete in London.
"I'm surrounded with former Olympians," Coburn says. "A lot of the coaches have been there done that, and know what it takes to get to the top. I'm fortunate to have them helping me."
With six months to prepare for the most important race of her life, Coburn is doing everything she can to have the best run of her career.
"All I can do now is keep getting better," says Coburn.