University of Colorado distance runner Emma Coburn, who ended her collegiate running career Saturday with her second NCAA steeplechase title, has signed a professional contract with shoe company New Balance.
The deal came just hours after Coburn won the 3,000- meter steeplechase in 9 minutes, 28.26 seconds at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. She beat Florida State's Colleen Quigley by three seconds to follow up on her 2011 title. Coburn, whose time in the race ranks fifth in NCAA history, redshirted in 2012 in preparation for the London Olympics.
She will remain at CU as a volunteer assistant coach and will continue to work with coaches Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs, she said.
"I am thrilled to join Team New Balance as I start my professional career," she said. "New Balance has a long-standing history as an excellent running company, and I am honored to become a part of it."
Terms of the contract weren't disclosed, though Coburn said in a phone interview that she'll "be with them for a while" and was "very happy with the terms." She has not retained an agent, saying that her coaches will arrange races for her.
"In all of my conversations with companies, I made it very clear that no matter what, I'm staying in Boulder," she said. "No one protested me staying in Boulder, because they know that Mark and Heather are excellent coaches."
The arrangement sets up a power training partnership between her and fellow New Balance athlete Jenny Simpson, a former CU teammate and steeplechaser who recently returned to Boulder to be coached again by Wetmore and Burroughs, in addition to teammate Shalaya Kipp, who won the NCAA steeplechase title in 2012 and is redshirting this year.
"The fact that she (Simpson) was New Balance didn't play into the decision, other than she hadn't had a single complaint about them," Coburn said.
After the U.S. outdoor track and field championships June 20-23 in Des Moines, Iowa, Coburn will travel to Europe to race before returning to train full time in Boulder.
The Crested Butte High School product has been a top collegiate contender in the steeplechase — an event requiring runners to leap over large barriers, one of which sits before a water pit — since her arrival in Boulder (she had competed in the event some in high school). In addition to the NCAA titles, she was the 2011 U.S. champion and won the Olympic Trials in 2012 before a ninth-place finish in the steeplechase final in London.
Her prowess spreads over shorter distances too: She won the NCAA indoor title in the mile in March, just 0.19 seconds short of the meet record.
Steeplechase "has given me the most success over the years, so that's going to be my main focus," Coburn said of her career going forward. "I'll sprinkle in some 1,500s ... and maybe some 5,000s down the line.
"I've graduated, and I'm ready to run full time."
Daniel Petty: 303-954-1081, email@example.com, twitter.com/danielpetty