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Stephanie Cotter Heads for Adams State


stephanie cotter west muskerry acStephanie Cotter with the Irish Milers Club Trophy awarded to the Senior Girls 1500m winner at the Irish Schools Championships


This article by, John Walshe, appeared in the May 12th 2018 issue of the Evening Echo

It’s a long way from the townland of Direen, which lies halfway between Coachford and Dripsey, to the rarefied air of Adams State University in Colorado but that’s the path one Ireland’s most promising athletes will take later this year.

Following her victory in the 1500m at the Irish Life Health/Irish Schools T&F in Tullamore, Stephanie Cotter was destined to be one of the most sought-after athletes to follow in the footsteps of the many Irish who have taken the scholarship route.  

That June day in Tullamore, just 0.02 of a second separated first and second in the 1500m, with Cotter getting the verdict, ahead of Jodie McCann, in a personal best of 4:31.98. This was around 10 seconds faster than she had ran before, and it came after she had taken the silver medal in the 800m earlier in the afternoon.

So when the email arrived from Adams State, something told the West Muskerry athlete that this was the place for her. “Adams State was actually my first offer and I think sometimes you’re better off going with the very first, but after going over to visit the place, I really fell in love with it,” she explains.

Last September, along with her father, Michael, Stephanie got a taste of what life for the next four years will be like. “I was really fortunate when we asked about going over, they said yes straight away. To meet the Coach, Damon Martin, and his assistant David Granato, and to see the facilities first-hand was of huge benefit.

“There are two girls from Tyrone, twin sisters Roisin and Eilish Flanagan, already at Adams State, and they have shown huge improvement since moving there. I have kept in contact with them and some of the other girls, and there’s definitely a great team spirit at the university.”

Another Northern Irish athlete attending Adams State, who has also shown tremendous improvement this season, is Paddy Robb who has already clocked 3:49.58 for 1500m.

Adams State University is based in the town of Alamosa, in south-central Colorado, around 220 miles from Denver. Situated at 7,544 feet, it was the site chosen for the 1968 US Olympic trials, to replicate the conditions that would be experienced at the high altitude Mexico Olympics.

Probably the most famous athlete to attend the university was Pat Porter, a two-time Olympian, and one of the most dominant US runners of the 1980s, who tragically died in a plane crash in 2012. There is also a strong Irish connection with 1996 Olympian Shane Healy, and 2001 World Championship representative Daniel Caulfield – brother of Cork City manager John – having been inducted into the Adams State Hall of Fame in recent years.  

To train and compete at high altitude for the most formative years of her athletics career had a big bearing in Stephanie’s decision, as the former Coachford College student explained: “The altitude was obviously a huge factor for me and the idea of training at altitude for four years plus is something that very few athletes in Ireland have the means or the funds to do.

“As a distance runner, I do think that altitude training is hugely beneficial. It’s going to be a challenge, obviously, trying to adjust my training in the first couple of months, in order to make sure that I’m working with the altitude rather than against it, that’s what Coach Martin says.”  

Coached by Colette O’Riordan while at West Muskerry, Stephanie comes from an athletic family, so it was no surprise that she, along with her two younger sisters, Jennifer and Shannon, would follow in their parent’s footsteps. Michael Cotter was a top athlete with Leevale back in the 1990s, and also spent some time on an American scholarship, while their mother Sheila (Daly) ran with both the Millstreet and St Finbarr’s clubs around the same time.

Having experienced the US system himself, Michael Cotter was also high impressed with what he saw at Adams State during the 10-day trip in September. “I think everything you want to succeed in athletics and academically is there. First of all, it’s at altitude, running is the number one sport at the university and then there’s the tradition. The facilities are out of this world, although the majority of running is done on soft surfaces.

“I also think Adams State would like to get more involved with Irish athletics. Most athletes here have traditionally gone to the East Coast, at sea level, and they have never really experimented at altitude. You see people going away for a couple of weeks training at altitude and the difference it makes, imagine being out in a place like this for four or five years.”  

Having represented Ireland at junior level at last December’s European Cross-Country, Stephanie feels she has nothing to lose by going to America. “I’m in UCC at the moment, and I’ve had the experience of what it’s like to train and race here at home, but due to the fact that I train a lot on my own it’s not like I’m leaving a training group or the like.

“Also, at the university class sizes are small, and you get a one-on-one with your professors, which you don’t get here. Being from a rural area, I’m used to that and I’m sure I’ll feel at home there.”

Given her athletics achievements to date, and with a supportive family behind her, along with the opportunity to train and compete at such an acclaimed academy, the progress of this dedicated, articulate and courteous 19-year-old will be closely followed over the coming years.


Other Guest Articles by John Walshe

Cork to Cobh 40 Years Ago - Guest Article by John Walshe

Unique National Double for McGraths - Guest Article by John Walshe

Dick Hooper Speaks at St Finbarrs AC Function - Guest Article by John Walshe


Other Cork Athletics Stephanie Cotter Articles

Stephanie Cotter Runs for Europe in Edinburgh International 2018

Stephanie Cotter Third in Antrim International Cross-Country 2018

Cork City Sports Athlete of the Month May 2017 Stephanie Cotter




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