Anna Coffin wanted one more taste of a full year.
From injuries to health issues and pandemic-shortened seasons, a complete year was the one thing the talented runner never experienced until her senior campaign last season.
Getting a glimpse of what that felt like was why she decided to return for a fifth year, even before last spring’s Big Ten outdoor track and field championship was over.
“I had my first full year of no injuries,” Coffin said. “That was eye-opening to the things I could do when I felt like I had reached my potential.”
She returns as the only graduate student on a cross country team that’s already made an impact in the season’s opening weeks.
Coffin finished second of 89 runners in the Baltimore Metro Meet — the first meet of the season — and the Terps won. She followed with another top-five finish on Sept. 9 as Maryland finished third overall at the Navy Invitational.
“The focus early in the season is to build momentum as a team and work together as we build up for some bigger competitions this fall,” coach Danielle Siebert said after the Navy Invitational. “The team showcased their grit out on a tough course.”
Coffin started running at Annapolis High School, where she was a two-time Capital Gazette cross country runner of the year and the 2019 indoor 3200-meter state champion.
She followed the footsteps of her sister, Maria Coffin, who also ran cross country. The two competed together for two years at Annapolis before Maria Coffin went on to Providence College.
“She initially, right away, had potential,” Maria Coffin said. “When Anna and I were both on the team, we kind of had different strengths in the sense that Anna was more of a miler, 800 girl and I was more of a distance, two mile, 5k girl. So that was nice that we could balance out the team with our strengths.”
While the younger Coffin was at Annapolis, Seibert started to notice the hard-working, gritty runner she was. Because Coffin played lacrosse instead of track in the spring, Seibert only had her cross country resumé to scout with. But the coach had a good feeling about the five-time high school captain.
“I knew she came from a family of runners and I knew the pedigree of her sister and going to Providence, being an NCAA All-American,” Seibert said. “I just got a good feeling in talking to her that she was ready to go to the next level.”
Coffin immediately ran for the Terps once she reached campus, competing in the fall for cross country and in the winter for indoor track as a freshman. She participated in the cross country NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship and the Big Ten Indoor Track Championship in the winter, where she ran a career-best 9:59.21.
The COVID-19 pandemic cut Coffin’s freshman spring short, canceling the NCAA Indoor Track Championship and outdoor track season. These effects carried into her sophomore year, when the cross country season was canceled.
Once the indoor track season began in January 2021, Coffin still could not to return to the sport. She contracted the virus and did not compete in any indoor track events. When outdoor track began, she only participated in three meets that season.
Coffin then suffered another setback at the start of her junior season. An ankle injury in the first competition kept her out for the remainder of the fall, then a bout with mononucleosis lengthened her recovery.
Effects of the ailment lingered deep into the spring. Coffin ran in four of Maryland’s eight indoor events in the winter and six of 10 competitions in the spring, including the Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championship.
“I love to reach my goals and so I won’t really let an injury like that block me from doing that,” Coffin said. “It definitely sucks, but it’s nice to see I have all these teammates and I can see them progress and it makes you want to go back even stronger.”
Coffin’s senior year was her first chance at an uninterrupted collegiate season. After helping lead the Terps with top-two finishes in both the Big Ten Cross Country Championships and the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, she delivered a combined 12 top-10 finishes across the indoor and outdoor track seasons.
With a taste of an undisturbed year and a team around her with multiple returners playing impactful roles, Coffin returned to College Park for a fifth season.
“I had a pretty good look into what a season could look like fully healthy,” Coffin said. “And I knew we had some really good returners coming back and I was excited [about], incoming freshmen so I couldn’t miss the chance of not getting to celebrate with my team.”
Coffin’s return as the only fifth-year senior on the roster brings an expectation of leadership. She’s adjusted well to that role, Seibert said.
Coffin believes this year’s cross country team is the best group she’s been a part of in her five years at Maryland. She has high expectations for the team, but she has even higher ones for herself.
“To make it to nationals,” she said.