CLICK HERE to read original article, written by Concord Monitor Staff Writer Tim O'Sullivan
As she stood on a starting line in Memphis, Tenn., preparing to run her first race for the University of Alabama, Elisabeth Danis's thoughts traveled back to New Hampshire.
"I was telling myself it's just another 5K and I know how to run a 5K," Danis said. "I had such a solid upbringing as a runner at Coe-Brown. Everything is new at college, but everything is also the same basic fundamentals that I learned in high school, and now it's just applying it to a new situation."
Danis finished 16th overall in that Sept. 3 race, the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic. She was third among all freshmen and finished fifth (in the scoring) for Alabama, which won the race and is currently the No. 4-ranked women's cross country team in the country. And Danis is not the only Coe-Brown alum finding cross country success at the next level.
Sarah Curtin, a 2015 Coe-Brown grad and sophomore at Saint Joseph's College in Maine, was named Great Northeast Athletic Conference Women's Cross Country Runner of the Week on Sept. 13 after she finished second overall and helped Saint Joseph's win the Husson Invitational Championship, the Hawks first team victory since 2012. Julia Cormier, who graduated from Coe-Brown in 2016 with Danis, has already been named the Northeast-10 Conference Women's Rookie of the Week twice, most recently on Monday.
"I think they have that family sense over at Coe-Brown. It's do what you can for your teammates and that's what really excited us about having someone from Coe-Brown join our program," Franklin Pierce cross country assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Chris DeLeon said. "We knew people that come from that program always do well and it's because of the coaching that they have over there."
Coaches Tim Cox and Brent Tkaczyk have led Coe-Brown to a record six straight girls' Division II cross country titles, five straight Meet of Champions crowns, a 2013 New England title and New England runner-up finishes in 2012, 2014 and 2015. They've also guided the Coe-Brown boys' cross country team to back-to-back D-II championships. Winning like that is one of the reasons they coach, but it's hardly the only reason.
"One of the big reasons is to help kids move on to the next step," Cox said in April when three of his athletes were signing National Letters of Intent to run in college. "Running can be a tool to help them pay for college. That's icing on the cake, but it's really good icing."
Cormier was one of the runners who was signing that day, and she was joined by two classmates who are running for D-I colleges – Brooke Laskowsky at Cornell and Meg Scannell at Appalachian State. Another member of the Coe-Brown Class of 2016, Meg Spainhower, is running cross country at Colby-Sawyer.
That's an amazing number of athletes from one high school program competing at the next level, and that's before mentioning former Coe-Brown track athletes who are non-cross country focused, like Hannah Parker at UConn or Ariel Clachar at Maine, or the Coe-Brown boys who are running in college, like Jake Scarponi, who scored in his first cross country meet for Worcester Polytechnic Institute this fall.
"Cox and Tkaczyk prepared us beyond what we needed for running in college," Danis said, "and I'm so thankful for that."
They also prepared their runners beyond the level of most other high school programs.
"I don't know where I would be without Coe-Brown," Cormier said. "Just talking to some of the other girls who came from programs that weren't as intense as Coe-Brown makes me realize that even more. There's a lot of girls who didn't know what certain types of workouts were and I'm like, 'I've been doing this for four years.' Or there's a lot of girls who haven't run 90 minutes before because their team just didn't do that. So running at Coe-Brown definitely prepared me and it's made running in college less of a shock, both physically and mentally."
That preparation has paid immediate dividends as Cormier has been the top Franklin Pierce finisher in all four of its races this fall.
"She just does all the right things and if she's not sure what the right thing is, she asks," DeLeon said of Cormier. "She's dedicated to the sport, dedicated to her success and dedicated to her team, which is something we knew about her in her Coe-Brown days and we're thrilled its continued here at Franklin Pierce."
Cormier and Danis were year-round runners at Coe-Brown and between cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, they were part of 10 team championships. Curtin, however, played soccer and basketball for the Bears and only ran in the spring. But she was still ready to make the leap to college cross country after training with Cox, Tkaczyk, David Zink-Mailloux and the other Coe-Brown coaches during outdoor track.
Last spring, Curtin set the school record in the 800 meters (2:33.80). This fall, she's been Saint Joseph's top finisher in all three of the team's cross country races, including two top-10 overall finishes.
"Coe-Brown definitely prepared me well," Curtin said. "The coaches were awesome, the people were great. It was really a great team to be on and the coaches really pushed you to have a love of the sport and keep with it … I'd say in college it's maybe a little bit more intense with more weight training and stuff that we might not have done as much of when I was at Coe-Brown, but running wise I felt they were similar workouts and I felt really well prepared that way."
Danis said that Coe-Brown also, "prepared me over the top for college academics," but the school in Northwood couldn't ready her for every new college experience.
"Alabama is definitely different than New Hampshire," Danis said. "There are a lot of new things to get used to. Example: there are a lot of biscuits down here and they are really good. Southern cooking is awesome."
Saint Joseph's College is Maine's only Catholic liberal arts college, providing a supportive, personalized and career-focused education for more than 100 years. From its 474-acre campus on the shores of Sebago Lake, the College offers more than 40 undergraduate programs to a population of approximately 1,000 students. Saint Joseph's College Online provides certificates, undergraduate and advanced degrees for working adults through an online learning program. For more, visit www.sjcme.edu.