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Record-breaking Effort By Former Buff Coburn Also Aided Colorado Charity

Jul 2, 2020

BOULDER — Under normal circumstances, former University of Colorado great Emma Coburn would have just wrapped up the U.S. Olympic Trials and be in the process of beginning her preparation for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

But these are, quite obviously, not normal circumstances. The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has forced postponement or cancelation of nearly every major sporting event on the books, including the Olympics. The "2020 Trials" will now be held in late June 2021 in Eugene, Ore., with the Olympics set to begin in July 2021.

But even though the racing calendar has been virtually erased, Coburn and her Team Boss teammates in Crested Butte can't shut down their training. They continue to work and aim toward 2021, always looking for any opportunity to race until then.

That's why last weekend Coburn and a handful of other elite athletes found themselves on the track at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction with an eye on breaking the state mile record — and helping a great cause in the process.

"We know we need to still be racing and go through the process of getting ready for a race," said Coburn, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World Championships gold medalist in the steeplechase.. "Our coach (Joe Bosshard, also Coburn's husband) spent many, many, many hours emailing people trying to find a track somewhere in the country where we could race and where we could safely do so. It took a long time and then finally, we realized we might as well just travel less and try to find a race at home. We decided the most fun way to race in Colorado was to chase the mile (record)."

Coburn did more than just chase the record, she caught it. On a warm, windy evening, Coburn clocked a 4 minute, 32-second mile to break the record of 4:36, held by fellow CU alum Dani Jones, who also ran in Grand Junction. Jones claimed the record in 2018 — held then by Coburn — and also beat her previous in-state best Saturday, trailing Coburn by just a couple of seconds.

Coburn said simply getting back out on the track in race mode was a great feeling.

"It was fun to put my uniform back on, put my spikes on, get back on the track and hear that gun go off," she said. "It felt natural, it felt perfect — it felt just how it should be."

While chasing and setting the record was no doubt a highlight for Coburn, she and her teammates were also proud of the support they were able to provide for the Sachs Foundation via a fundraising effort from the event.

Founded in 1931, the Sachs Foundation provides economic and educational support, including college scholarships, for Black and African-American Colorado residents. Over the years, the foundation has helped literally thousands of Colorado residents continue their education and earn college degrees.

"A lot of people on our team are very active in giving back to their communities," Coburn said. "With the social movements that are going on right now, we wanted to contribute to a Colorado group that would have a great impact. Aisha Praught (a teammate) found the Sachs Foundation and thought it would be a great fit for us. It's a Colorado group that's nearly 100 years old that supports Colorado kids. It was a wonderful partnership for us."

Thanks to a vigorous social media campaign by team members, they raised approximately $30,000 for the Sachs Foundation.

Ben Ralston, president of the foundation, tweeted after the event, "It's special that this group of @CUBuffsTrack alumni were such a big part of this. From the first Sachs Scholar being an elite runner, to the first Black Med School student at CU being a Sachs Scholar, to the 26 @SachsScholars studying at @CUBoulder currently. It means a lot."

Also in Grand Junction, several men chased the Colorado mile record, but were unable to eclipse the 4:01:00 mark set by CU's Joe Klecker last January. The closest was a 4:02.07 by Australian Morgan McDonald.

Now, Coburn and her teammates hope to get in a few more races this summer and early fall.

"I hope there will be more domestic races," she said. "Obviously everything is fluid and changing. We have to keep public health and safety a priority. But if there are venues that are able to host races, we are going to want to participate. I hope to race a few more times this summer, then probably take a break in October as I usually would. Then we'll begin ramping up for the 2021 season."