On track for success

Will Coogan '20 has run one of the fastest miles in America. Now, he's taking his speed to the sport's biggest stages.

Brian Muldoon
January 28, 2019
Will Coogan '20 running outdoors at Exeter

Will Coogan '20 swapped the cross-country course for the indoor track and has kept on winning races. 

Will Coogan is fast. His teammates know it, his opponents certainly know it, and in the next six weeks, he will have the chance to show the rest of the country.

Coogan ‘20 traveled to Boston last week to compete in the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, a collection of the best high school mile runners in America. He finished 10th in a star-filled field, but that was only the first of three national events in which he'll race this winter; he qualified for and accepted invitations to the historic Millrose Games in February and the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March.

“These are the biggest meets of my life, so far,” said Coogan. “I knew there was a chance I could qualify and get in, but I tried not to think about it and just run my race.”

All three fields feature former or aspiring Olympians along with select collegiate, high school and youth runners. The Millrose Games, in its 112th year, is billed as the oldest, most prestigious indoor track and field competition in the world, and the “Millrose Mile” is regarded as one of the marquee events in the sport.

“Will has taken a significant step forward this year in his development,” said Exeter distance coach Brandon Newbould, who also coaches Coogan on the boys cross country team. “He comes into this track season with much more experience racing at an elite level, and with a base of training that he's never had before now. He's able to stand on the starting line of any race at this point with a plan to win.”

Coogan competed in the Freshman Nationals and Emerging Elite National Mile in each of the past two years and wasted little time getting back on the national radar again this winter. Competing at the Boston University Mini Meet in December, Coogan reeled off what was to that point the fastest high school mile of the season, cruising across the finish line in a crisp 4 minutes, 16.04 seconds.

“It was cool to know that I ran that fast, I found out it was the fastest time so far this year later that night when someone tagged me in an Instagram photo,” Coogan said humbly. “It was definitely a confidence booster and I think I really need some of that confidence heading into these big meets. The last two years (at Nationals and Emerging Elite), I didn’t put myself in position to win those races. I hung at the back and it resulted in a good time, but it did not result in the opportunity to go get it. I want to put myself in a position to win it, and run my race.”

Coogan’s fast start to the indoor season has been an extension of his spectacular cross-country season in the fall that included a runner-up finish at Interschols, helping Big Red to second place as a team. He credits his success with the training he puts in throughout the year.

After playing baseball for Big Red in the spring, Coogan starts hitting the road early in the summer. He starts by logging 20 to 30 miles per week, ultimately peeking at 50, and he competes in some local road races while trying to keep his mileage up for the 5K cross-country races. Longer, high-tempo runs will continue throughout the fall season before he shifts gears in the new William Boyce Thompson Field House.

“Now during indoor season, we’re doing more fast stuff to train, sprinting 200-meter and 1,000-meter repeats. During my prep year, I remember trying to do these fast workouts while running on the side of the road in the cold and slush – you cannot run that fast in slush. Now we are in the field house and we can put spikes on and get some good workouts in.

“And it’s nice to have our distance team training on the track with our sprinters and throwers; it’s nice to have us together as a full team.”

“One of the things I appreciate most about William is that he brings no ego or arrogance to his training and racing,” said Newbould. “Some guys in his shoes would rest on their laurels and rely on their physical talent to get by in competition, but Will trains like every other guy on the team. We haven't felt under-prepared at any point this year because of the work he's put in. Off the track, he’s just another guy on the team, and this team has a lot of fun in practice. Competition in running is brutal, but it should also be fun, and the training should be too. I think Will bridges that gap well.”

Coogan will now rely on that training, excited energy, and racing strategy against some of the country’s best.

“The adrenaline will be there, and that is important to going fast, but you do not want to psych yourself out. I want to go and do what I know I can do, which is run reasonably fast and see where I am with two or three laps to go and hopefully have a chance to go for it.”

Watch the Millrose Games at www.USATF.TV on Feb. 9.