The St. Olaf men’s cross country team placed first in the MIAC Championships for the fourth straight year on Oct. 29, led by Joe Coffey ’17, who came first individually with a time of 25:56.9, a full 10.6 seconds faster than the second place time. Following the race, Coffey was named the conference MVP, posting the fastest time for the Oles in each of their races this season. Coffey and St. Olaf will take their success to the national stage on Nov. 12 in the NCAA Division III Central Regionals.
Q: How and why did you decide to become a distance runner? How do you plan on keeping it a part of your life after graduation?
A: I started running in middle school because of my older brother Christopher, who ran at St. Olaf from 1999 to 2003 and encouraged me to do it. I joined the St. Olaf team mostly for my brother’s sake and thought I would quit. However, I quickly realized the running culture at St. Olaf was something special; it’s not everyday you stumble upon a group as tight knit as the cross country boys. I’ve been running for years, but I don’t think I identified with running until I arrived at St. Olaf. As for the future, right now I can’t imagine running any less than I do here at Olaf. I simply wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t lacing up my shoes once or twice a day.
Q: What athletes inspire you to keep improving, and what life lessons have you learned from them?
A: The athletes who have inspired me most are some of my teammates whom I’ve had the pleasure to run with. Guys like Grant Wintheiser ’15, Jake Campbell ’16 and Paul Escher ’16 have been setting school records and winning national championships for years. Being able to see them push their limits and getting a first hand glimpse of what it takes to excel at running has been a great inspiration to me.
Q: What’s special about St. Olaf’s 2016 cross country team when compared to the other teams you’ve been a part of throughout your life?
A: Running at St. Olaf would not be an experience of a lifetime without the incredible group of men that I have had the opportunity to share it with. We are a close knit group, often to the point of aggravation with our obnoxious team table and tendency to run on the upstairs track without shirts on. But our experience is shaped by the runners we share time with every day, and during my time at St. Olaf I have been continuously astonished by the quality of character and the kindness shown by my teammates. The 2016 team has been no exception. This year’s team, more than any other team I have been on during my time at St. Olaf or during my time running in high school, chooses to define itself more through the friendships produced than the number of championships won.