Mark Wetmore Talks About Emma Coburn’s Big Win, Jenny Simpson’s Four-Flat And What The Future Holds For Ben Saarel

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“I was a little surprised at how the race unfolded but not surprised at her individual performance.”

by LetsRun.com
Mary 20, 2014

After Emma Coburn‘s huge upset win over a world-class field at the Shanghai Diamond League meet on Sunday, LetsRun.com tried to reach out to her through her coach and agent Mark Wetmore for her reaction. Coburn, who ran 9:19.80 to set a four-second PB, was traveling and not immediately available, so we talked to coach Wetmore. Here’s what he had to say about Coburn and Jenny Simpson’s races in Shanghai and his super-frosh at Colorado, Ben Saarel.

Note: This interview has been condensed in parts for clarity

LRC: What was your reaction when you heard about Emma’s race? (LRC Note: we assume he didn’t watch it live at 5:00 am Pacific but don’t know for sure).

Mark Wetmore: I was a little surprised at how the race unfolded but not surprised at her individual performance.

Was Emma going to front something you talked about going in or did she make that decision on her own? What was the plan going into the race?

The plan was to hit certain splits wherever that placed her in the field. The decision to go ahead of the group alone was hers but she wanted to stay on the splits that we talked about.

This was a breakthrough performance for her. Does this change the goals for her at all?

No. The splits we had discussed with her – coach [Heather] Burroughs and I — were exactly 9:19. It didn’t change the goals at all, which are to keep trying to run a little faster.

Do you think she can get close to Jenny Simpson’s American record (9:12.50) by the end of the summer?

Probably close.

What’s the next race for Emma?

She’s entered in the Prefontaine steeplechase on May 31.

Jenny’s race (4:00.42 for second behind world champion Abeba Aregawi) was pretty similar to Emma’s in that she was just sort of hitting those splits. Was that something you had told her, the same race plan as Emma?

With Jenny, we didn’t have any splits assigned to her or discussed with her. We were allowing her to run the race by feel and respond to the competition. So it was a fairly different approach.

Are you happy with where she’s at right now? Is her training going well?

Her training’s been going fine. We’re very happy with the race in Shanghai. It was what we hoped for for May 18. Now we run a few more of those [1500s] and maybe some other distances as well.

What’s the next race on her schedule?

Prefontaine 1500.

Did Jenny seem more confident after the race – that was her best time since she broke 4:00 in 2009?

She was pleased. Same as Coach Burroughs and I, she was pleased with the result for May 18. If that was the best she ran all year, I think she’d end up a little disappointed.

Why did you choose not to run the World Relays in the Bahamas?

We do our planning quite a bit in advance. Our thinking about the outdoor season was pretty much finalized by middle February. The U.S. selection procedure took up until middle April, so we had to go ahead with business.

What’s the goal for Jenny this season?

The goal for Jenny this season is to keep running faster, stay versatile and run faster at multiple events.

You mentioned for May 18 that was a good performance, but is there a specific date or meet you’re really gearing up towards?

Unlike the three out of four years that have a major in August, this year we’re focusing a little more on a broader season of performances. So rather than one specific peak, she’s hoping to be able to get a little faster as the months go by, keep being competitive in the 1500, but also in maybe in the 8, maybe elsewhere.

Emma Coburn gaps

Emma Coburn two-thirds of the way home to glory.

[Last weekend], you’ve got your athletes competing in Shanghai but you’re also at the Pac-12 championships (at Washington State) coaching Colorado. How do you balance that?

Emma and Jenny and our other post-collegians are co-coached by myself and my assistant here at Colorado, Heather Burroughs. We try to make sure that one of us is at everything we can be. Heather went with Emma and Jenny to the Tokyo meet [on May 11] and stayed until right before Shanghai. All the workouts were done so all that was left was the shakeouts and the warm-ups. She left on Thursday to join us in Pullman. Commonly, one of us is at the collegiate meet and the other is at the professional meet if we can arrange it.

Ben Saarel was in the 1500 at Pac-12s (he finished fourth), why did you choose to enter him in the 1500 as opposed to the 5k/10k?

I don’t know. I think because he’s young and has a lot of years to go. We like to develop people as middle distance runners while they’re young and save the longer things for later. But he has the opportunity to run the 5000 at the NCAA preliminary rounds and the NCAA championships perhaps, but we don’t know which he’ll choose, that or the 1500.

Do you see down the road, junior or senior season he’s going to be more a 5k/10k type than a 1500?

What’s going to be the decision-making process for the events he focuses on?

He’ll continue to run the 1500, he’ll stick his toe in the water of the 5k. Naturally, there’s a 3k indoors in which he finished 3rd at this past NCAAs. Those are all good distances for him and he’ll experience them all while he’s here.

Coach Wetmore, we appreciate the time.

You’re welcome.

More: LRC Archives: The Legend Of Mark Wetmore Grows: Mark Wetmore Reveals His Pre-Race Fears
Mark Wetmore Is Going To Be A Very Happy Man: Ben Saarel is A Special Talent