BOSWELL – During practice on a cold, autumn day, North Star senior Emily Coddington once joked to cross country coach Anthony Dean-Neil about going down south to continue her running career in college.
While it was good natured, Dean-Neil took the hint literally and was able to pull a few strings in regards to contacting college coaches.
Coddington, who only has just over one year of cross country experience, eventually found the right fit at Tusculum University in eastern Tennessee.
The 10-time District 5 champion signed her National Letter of Intent on Tuesday to continue her cross country and track careers at the Division II school.
“It feels really great,” Coddington said. “The school really just fit where I wanted. The coach had experience taking girls to nationals, so that’s really important. The school felt a lot like home. I clicked really well with the girls on the team there. It was just a great experience.”
Coddington will major in special education. She chose the Pioneers over George Mason, Liberty and Seton Hill.
Despite playing soccer through her junior season, Coddington won District 5 Class A cross country titles in 2018 and 2019. She became the first Cougar to earn a PIAA medal in the sport when she finished in seventh place this past November.
Dean-Neil remembered when he learned of Coddington’s preference for a warmer climate.
“She said, ‘I want to go somewhere where it’s warm.’ I have a friend of mine on the staff at Tusculum,” he said. “I told them about her. They were so interested in her because they feel she has the potential as a quality runner on the Division II level.”
Coddington, who competes on the Shade track and field team as part of a co-op, believes the warmer temperatures will help her in training.
“It will help a lot being able to run year-round outside,” she said.
Coddington played a vital role in helping the Shade track and field team win its first District 5 Class AA team title in 2019. She ran a leg on the championship 400- and 1600-meter teams, while claiming the 1600. The Panthers’ 400 relay squad finished fourth at the PIAA meet.
“Honestly from the first time I saw her run, I knew right then that she was going to be good,” Shade track and field coach Mark O’Ship said.
“She’s a very hard worker. Her and her family take track very seriously.
“For her size, she’s all heart and determination. When she doesn’t do real well, you can tell she’s not pleased with herself. That’s what keeps her going.
“She does whatever you ask of her.”
As a freshman, Coddington ran a leg on the District 5 championship 400 and 1600 relays. She added district gold medals in the same two events and the 1600 as a sophomore, finishing second in the 800. The 1600 relay squad finished eighth at the state level.
This past Saturday, Coddington crossed the finish line in 24th place at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Championship race, which included runners from 11 different states.
Coddington is eager to join a close-knit Pioneers team.
“They work really well together,” she said. “They bond really well together and they really just care for each other and look out for each other there.”
Dean-Neil noticed improvement in Coddington’s first full year of cross country.
“She improved more as a runner this year,” he said. “Her times got faster. She started to understand the sport more. I told her, ‘Run the course, don’t let the course run you.’ When we were at states, we just had a sense that something big was going to happen.”
Coddington is the daughter of Eric and Malinda Coddington.