By Stephen Kasica, for LetsRun.com
December 14, 2012
After three years abroad, the University of Colorado Boulder’s prodigal son is returning home– so to speak.
Monument-resident Jenny Simpson, a 2009 CU graduate and the 2011 world 1500m champion, announced on trackjenny.com Tuesday that she is returning to Boulder, Colorado, where she first emerged onto the world’s stage, to be coached by her collegiate coach Mark Wetmore. For the last three years, she has been training at the Air Force Academy under the supervision of head cross-country coach Juli Benson.
“As I continue in my pursuit to be the best athlete I can be,” Simpson said in her personal statement. “I will be moving back to Boulder and continue my career under the coaching of Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs.”
Simpson’s decision was made at least week before she announced it.
Runners on the CU track team say Wetmore announced that he would resume a coaching relationship with the two-time Olympian on Dec. 4. CU’s Emma Coburn (a 2012 Olympian in the steeplechase) said she ran 14 miles with Simpson the weekend before, with a small group of CU runners at their weekly Sunday long run.
“With the addition of Jenny, we’ll have four Olympians and then several NCAA title winners, and then obviously a lot of all-Americans on the team,” CU’s Emma Coburn said. “We’re going to hopefully benefit from each other next spring.”
CU track team senior Diana George said that when Simpson joined her group for its weekly long-run that Sunday, it was the first time she saw Simpson at an official practice after she graduated.
In February 2010, Simpson left Wetmore to be coached by Benson weeks after signing a professional contract with New Balance. An accomplished runner in her own right, Benson represented the United States in the 1,500 during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Under Benson’s tutorship, in 2011 Simpson’s career reached new heights as Simpson stunned the world by winning the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea in 4:04.30.
Other 2011 highlights included a victory in the 1,500 at the Drake Relays in 4:12.95 and a first-place finish at the New York Fifth Avenue Mile in 4:22.3.
Simpson won the unprecedented world 1500m title under Benson, but Simpson ran all of her PRs at 1500m, the steeplechase, and 5000m under coach Wetmore. Simpson’s 1,500 meter PR remains 3:59.95, which she set at the 2009 Prefontaine Classic as a Buffalo, and her best 1500m under Benson was a more modest 4:03.54.
Simpson’s decision to return to Wetmore comes at the end of the year where she finished last in her heat at the London Olympic semifinals and missed out on a slot in the finals.
In addition to coaching her to running her 1500m, steeple and 5000m prs, Simpson set six collegiate records, made two-international teams and her first Olympic team under Wetmore’s tutelage.
Efforts to contact Benson and Simpson about the reason for her coaching change were not immediately successful, and Wetmore declined to comment; instead, he directed all queries to her agent, Ray Flynn, who said via email Tuesday that this change was “very amicable.”
Stephen Kasica was a 1:49.92 800m runner at the University of Colorado where he ran with Jenny Simpson. His work has appeared in the The Boulder Weekly, The Vail Daily and The New York Times.