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All-Metro boys cross country runner of the year: Coffman sets a shining example in final season with Herculaneum

All-Metro boys cross country runner of the year: Coffman sets a shining example in final season with Herculaneum

From the 2019 All-Metro boys cross country series
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HERCULANEUM — His legs screamed for a break from the punishment. But Jonathan Coffman ignored them.

His lungs burned from exertion, but the Herculaneum senior runner didn't care.

He had to be there for his teammates.

"With the adrenaline still pumping, I was worried about the team and how they're doing," Coffman said. "Sometimes that overrides your tired muscles and breathing. Finishing the race is exciting, but seeing how your team finishes in front of teams and runners we're trying to beat is exciting."

In a sport that wears athletes down through sheer attrition, Coffman embodied the ultimate team-first attitude.

Literally seconds after every race, he would brush aside his fatigue to support his fellow Blackcats. 

"He'd come out of the finish-line chute, he'd circle back and go down in the crowd and search for his teammates," Herculaneum coach Kyle Davis said. "He's always about the team."

Coffman was named Post-Dispatch boys runner of the year after a second-place individual finish at state, which helped Herculaneum to a second-place team performance.

It was Herculaneum's 24th top-four finish and highest since a Class 2 runner-up effort in 2015.

Coffman became passionate about cheering on his teammates the minute he arrived at Herculaneum.

"Having that support and setting that example for the team is (important)," Coffman said. 

Coffman didn't care about his own time — he hardly ever ran with a watch to track his own clocking. Even though he was the Blackcats' No. 1 runner the moment he stepped on campus, the senior quickly developed a team-first mentality.

"It didn't matter how good your No. 1 was. You could have had a Kobe Bryant-like guy, but while Kobe can win a game by himself, Jonathan can't win the team trophy by himself," Davis said. 

His time of 15 minutes, 37.6 seconds at state on the Gans Creek Cross Country Course on the campus of the University of Missouri was the area's top time and was the best in Herculaneum history. 

While he hadn't run against Class 3 champion Michael Rebello out of Excelsior Springs, he had tangled with Blake Morris from Cape Notre Dame and dropped each meeting to him up until the state championship.

This time, Coffman got the better of Morris.

"It was the last high school race with the team. I guess having that motivation (helped)," Coffman said.

Coffman finished 26 seconds ahead of Morris (16:02).

"Even for guys that have gotten the better of him in the past, he's always shown back up like it's a clean slate. A fresh new start," Davis said.

While Coffman's hammer-down running style from the word go clashed with his coaches, he enjoyed setting the pace from the gun and making the other runners come after him.

"It's harder for me to sit off someone else," Coffman said. "If I set the pace, I won't push it."

Davis saw Coffman in middle school and knew he had a special runner.

"He was showing signs of being different then," Davis said. "I saw it at an early age. I didn't know it was going to be this extent."

While he wasn't fond of the hilly courses, Coffman enjoyed the challenge they presented.

"I like the flat courses for the fast times, but I do like the hilly course because it draws a line for people who train and don't," Coffman said.

The future college runner hasn't really decided on his school, but is looking at something in the medical field for his major.




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