Chartiers Valley grad Coyne rediscovers love for track and field at IUP
At the recent PSAC indoor track and field championships, IUP’s Kristina Coyne tied for eighth in the high jump with a leap of 1.55 meters — about 5 feet, 1 inch.
The Chartiers Valley grad admitted the mark was nothing special. It was a height she said she was achieving in middle school.
These days, however, Coyne is less concerned with numbers. Her last hurrah as an athlete is all about rediscovering her love for competing.
Coyne’s finish at the PSAC indoors came three years after her performance at the Mid-American Conference indoor championships when she was a junior at Eastern Michigan. Coincidentally, she took eighth in the high jump (1.69 meters) to score one point for the Eagles.
Eastern Michigan won the title by one point.
The point also made Coyne eligible for more scholarship money for her senior year. She initially was given 50 percent tuition and a book scholarship but had to earn more financial aid by scoring in the conference championship.
Despite finally achieving that goal, Coyne had soured on Eastern Michigan.
“I have no regrets about going there,” she said. “I think I had a lot of experiences that a lot of people are never going to get to experience. I got to be an athlete on the top level.
“But it’s a business, and you’re there to perform. And when you don’t, it doesn’t always work out the way you hope. When you have a coach who doesn’t care about you more than the numbers, it’s tough.”
Coming out of Chartiers Valley, where she also played soccer, volleyball, basketball and even kicked for the football team, Coyne had several opportunities. Cal (Pa.) offered her a full scholarship to play volleyball and run track. Other schools sought her athletic prowess as well, but she casually dismissed them all.
“I didn’t give them the time of day because I had too much pride,” she said.
In other words, Coyne was too caught up in being able to call herself a Division I athlete. But after three years of the grind at Eastern Michigan, she decided she had enough.
Coyne left EMU, returned home and started working at an early childhood development center. She knew, however, she couldn’t fulfill her goal of becoming an elementary school teacher without a degree. So she enrolled at IUP despite losing several credits in the transfer and having to reclassify as a junior academically.
Track and field wasn’t even a thought until a conversation with a transfer counselor changed that. Coyne, 24, discovered she had one year of athletic eligibility remaining, and she took it.
During indoor season, she competed in high jump, 60-meter hurdles and triple jump. At the Susquehanna Challenge on Feb. 2, she won the hurdles, placed third in the triple jump and tied for third in the high jump.
Coyne said her reward was something bigger than any medals she earned.
“It’s so refreshing to be able to come and do track and field and find the love for it again and the fun in it,” she said. “Even if I’m not putting up the marks I used to put up, it doesn’t define me anymore. I’m doing it for the right reasons.”
Outdoor season is right around the corner, and Coyne is eager to get going. She wants to do whatever she can to help the Crimson Hawks be successful while, at the same time, focusing on the joy of competition.
And she believes other high school athletes can learn a lesson from her journey.
“It doesn’t matter what division you’re at,” Coyne said. “If you’re good enough, you’re going to make a difference. If you get to put on your uniform and do what you love, that should be the focus.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .