Sarah Jonathan ’16 may not technically be on the Women’s Cross Country team anymore, but that won’t stop the two-time captain from making the trip down to 1600 Grand Ave. In fact, she believes that her main contributions as a coach come from doing what she spent the past four years doing: running.
In her four years as a harrier for the Scots, Johnathan worked her way to the top. In her 2015 Cross Country season, Jonathan received All-MIAC honorable mention with her 21st place finish. She went on in Track & Field to compete at nationals in the the 3000m steeplechase. Jonathan currently holds the school record in the event.
Jonathan is now an Assistant Coach for the WolfPack (a nickname Women’s Cross Country has given themselves), a role she describes as being an “in-between” for the runners and their Head Coach, Betsy Emerson. To elaborate, she said, “I do a lot of running with the team, and for some runs it just means I go out and run with the team, but for workouts sometimes I’ll just stick with a certain person who doesn’t have a training partner on the team to train with, try to help them set the pace that they’re looking for.”
Jonathan, just a handful of months removed from her time at Macalester, is in the unique position of being a coach to a team made up mostly of people she used to run alongside. This dynamic, and the effect that it would have on her efficacy as a coach, was the source of any apprehension she had going into her new job. However, regarding the dynamic, she said, “to be honest, it’s not gonna change completely or dramatically. There’s no denying the fact that I ran with all these people and was their teammate … I’m not pretending that they think I’m planning the workouts or anything like that, or really in charge at the top, but I’m someone who they can go to if they don’t necessarily feel comfortable talking to our coach about something. And bridging that gap.”
What stands out most about Jonathan is how team-focused she is. When I asked her what her proudest moment as a student athlete was, she talked about going to the National Championship Meet and making it to the finals in the steeplechase, but she eventually settled on a fourth-place team finish at the MIAC Cross Country meet because it was a great day for the team as a whole. Her answer about what she enjoyed most as a coach fell in line with this selfless attitude. “A couple of times I’ve done workouts with people and they’ve said something afterwards that indicated that they’re really happy that they got the workout in that they did, and if I wasn’t there they wouldn’t necessarily have gone quite that fast.”
From talking with her, it’s clear that Jonathan fits into the role of coach perfectly because of how much she cares about the people around her. Apparently, good teammates make good coaches and Jonathan’s unselfishness means that the Cross Country team is making the right choice keeping her around.