The latest Washington star runner earns national attention for achievements during cross country and track.
While most runners were holding off on their training during the absent cross country season in the fall of 2020, others found ways to make the most of an absent season. Some just logged in miles for base training, but athletes like Olympia's Ethan Coleman wanted more.
Sitting with his coach at school one day, Coleman was brainstorming ideas about creating time trials for himself to get something out of the fall. He even talked about setting up a race with another elite-runner from the other side of the state.
“I just remember making a passing comment to my coach saying, ‘I wish I could race (Isaac) Teeples in a real race,’” said Coleman.
“So, then my coach said, ‘Why don’t we just invite him over?’ and I didn’t think he would want to. Sure enough, a week or two later, we got him to come over.”
Kamiakin's Isaac Teeples was coming off an impressive sophomore campaign winning the 3A individual and team cross country titles in the fall, and went onto excel in unattached races in the non-existent track season, posting some of the best times in the country for sophomores.
“All my teammates would joke around with me because they knew I wanted to race and beat Isaac Teeples,” said Coleman. “But since my freshman and sophomore year, he’s been the big inspiration and goal to reach, and I think that’s been a big part of my progression as a runner to have someone like Isaac up there.”
It was as simple as a quick text message to race the state's best runner, and it became a reality in early October.
Coleman and Teeples ran one of the fastest unattached races in recent memory, running within a second of each other and posting times of 14:43 and 14:44 for a 5k on the track. The defending 3A state champ wasn't the one who crossed the finish line first. It was Coleman.
Coleman, who was 12th at the 4A state race the same year Teeples won the individual 3A crown, had taken down what everyone viewed as the "Goliath" of Washington runners in 2019.
"For me, that was a big confidence boost," said Coleman. "But my teammates were in a little disbelief. They never expected me to actually beat him."
At the time, it was just a one-time happening until things were cleared for a regular running season. Little did Coleman, Teeples, and the individuals in attendance that day know that it would be a preview for an all-time great race taking place a few months later.
Between October and April, Olympia coach Jesse Stevick had put together an invite that would bring in some of the most talented distance runners in Washington for purposes to race his own athlete to give him competition. Even athletes from Oregon were getting in on the race.
"Our coach preps us for races that will be challenging, and he has us do workouts where time isn’t a factor," said Coleman. "He wants us to learn how to race and how to compete.”
Thus, the Olympia 3,200 was born.
With elite-level athletes from Washington and Oregon signed up, this inaugural event was must-see racing. It even reached an audience on a national stage, with MileSplit USA attending to witness the historic race.
For Coleman, it was his first opportunity to showcase his talents to the entire country, all while running on his home turf.
“That race really taught me how to race in that kind of situation,” said Coleman. “You’re putting yourself in a position where people are going along with you, but they’re not just hanging onto you; they’re surging and trying to get around you.”
Crossing the finishing line in first after a tough battle with Camas' Evan Jenkins for three-quarters of the race, Coleman clocked in the fastest 3,200 time of the season in the Northwest at 8:49.
The fist-pumping Coleman had all the emotions on a special evening on his home track.
“What pushed all that excitement and celebration that night was really my team and the community,” said Coleman.
“When I was coming down the homestretch, my entire track team was yelling and cheering for me, and it was such an exciting moment. That was one of the best races of my life and one of the most fun nights I’ve had.”
Not only was this an important milestone for Coleman in his young career, but this was also the spark Washington needed to bring excitement back to the running scene, something Coleman has been pushing for the last few years.
“I do have a big passion for inspiring Washington in becoming more of a runner’s centric area,” said Coleman.
“Lots of people, not even runners, said that was one of the best races they’ve ever seen,” said Coleman. “Seeing people who aren’t always big runners and having them come watch and be excited about it hopefully opens more opportunities for people to set their sights on distance running as a whole.”
While that night was a peaking performance for some athletes, Coleman's racing continued.
Three days later, after racing the 3,200, Coleman hit the track again to race a 5k in the virtual 4A state cross country meet and clocked a first-place time of 14:39, all while running solo.
Two months later, he was invited to compete in the prestigious Brooks PR Invite to run against the nation's best in the two-mile. He would finish fifth running 8:51.
“It was kind of surreal getting to be part of all this,” said Coleman. “At the end of the day, they were great experiences."
Heading into the fall, it's clear Coleman is the top overall runner in the entire state after seeing what he's accomplished over the past year. However, like any competitor, Coleman is chasing for more.
“There’s definitely more to prove,” said Coleman. “There’s going to be a bigger focus on peaking, but also training to prepare myself for collegiate athletics because I feel my running career will go far beyond.”
One of those things to prove is winning a state title, a real one, to be exact.
“Getting that real state championship this season is going to be a big deal," said Coleman. "The biggest thing for any person is winning a state championship, no matter where you are at athletically.”
Then he hopes to shine again on the national level at NXR after the state meet to earn a birth to run at NXN.
“Definitely trying to shoot for top five at NXR, but I’d love to win it,” said Coleman. “If I win state by enough, I think winning NXR is within the cards. Then, of course, I want to race at NXN and get more of that national's experience.”
While all these exciting moments have been brought up by himself, Coleman credits his own success back to his team, from JV-level runners to varsity athletes.
“Something I don’t talk about enough is that I’m very excited for my team this season,” said Coleman.
“I think the JV kids and everyone else who’s not in the center of attention all the time don’t get enough credit. Everyone who works really hard during the summer and throughout the season that may never win a race, I’m really excited to watch them race because I appreciate having those guys around.”
Almost a year has passed since that time trial in October. One text message was all it took for Coleman to bring light back to the sport.