Track and field coach steps down

Alex Coffin resigned as head coach of the St. Thomas University track and field team in December 2016.

Coffin, 48, was in his fourth year as a coach. He was also looking forward to once again bringing the Tommies to the McGill Team Challenge, a major track and field event hosted on Jan. 27, by McGill University in Montreal.

The team will not attend the McGill championship this year, but will head to Halifax in February instead.

Coffin said taking part in this prestigious competition was a great way to attract future track and field athletes to the university.

“I did not want to resign,” said Coffin, adding that he had no choice since he hadn’t been able to spend much time with the team lately.

Coffin is rarely in the Fredericton area, as well.

“I live in Saint John and work in Sussex,” he said.

Coffin is being replaced by Greg Allan as head coach of both STU track and field teams.

In previous years, Coffin was also head coach of the STU cross-country team, but he stepped aside in the fall and became an assistant coach – handing the reins to former assistant Mary Astle.

Since August 2016, Coffin has been general manager of the PotashCorp Civic Centre, a sports complex which opened in 2012 in Sussex, a small town situated more than 100-kilometres southeast of Fredericton.

Before accepting the role at the civic centre in Sussex, Coffin owned a sporting goods store in the Saint John area, not far from where he resides.

Over the years, Coffin’s accomplishments as a coach include building the biggest university female throwing team in Atlantic Canada.

One of the athletes Coffin has coached with the Tommies is third-year student Makayla Oatway from Prince Edward Island.

In 2014, her first year at STU, Oatway was the first-ever recipient of a track and field entrance scholarship.

The funds for the $10,000 multi-year prize Oatway received were donated by the Arthur L. Irving Family Foundation.

“We’re very lucky. Mr. and Mrs. Irving have been great supporters of me as a coach in the past, so as soon as I started as a coach here [at STU], I asked if they’d be willing to support me and they were glad to do so,” Coffin said in a statement on the STU website that announced Oatway as the scholarship recipient.

Another one of Coffin’s former athletes is shot putter Jonathan Gionet, who won a silver medal in 2016 and a gold in 2015 at the annual Atlantic University Sport Championships. Gionet now competes for the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.

Coffin, who was born in Fredericton and raised in Saint John, was a distance and cross-country runner when he studied at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

“It is ironic. [Distance running] was the only thing I was never able to get going,” Coffin said of his time coaching the Tommies.

Although he is no longer leading STU athletes, Coffin will not stop coaching track and field.

In fact, he will be among Team New Brunswick’s coaching staff at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games in Toronto this summer.

More than 5,000 athletes and 2,000 volunteers are expected to take part in the event, which runs from July 16 to 23.

“We have a good group of coaches,” said Coffin. “I think that is the key.”

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