Coats goes from walk-on to NAIA Indoor Nationals contender

January 11, 2020
Jonah Coats track and field

Jonah Coats

Jonah Coats of Valdez was only looking for a college track and field coach to give him a chance.

Then another Alaskan made it happen.

And now Coats is making it happen in the heptathlon.

The Eastern Oregon University redshirt sophomore wrapped up his first heptathlon of the season by taking fourth place overall at the Lauren McCluskey Invite & Multis in Moscow, Idaho.

Coats, of Valdez High fame, finished with a personal record and NAIA provisional qualifying mark with 4,435 total points. The total was an improvement of 389 points from last season and ranks No. 7 in the EOU record books.

“Some years his score will make the 16-man field at Nationals and some years it will not, so he will get another shot in a few weeks and hopefully continue his remarkable improvement,” EOU coach Ben Welch told me.

Welch is from Alaska and graduated from Wasilla High. He has coached at the college 28 years for cross country and 18 years for track and field.

He took a chance on Coats after receiving a phone call from Ron Langseth, a teacher and coach in Valdez.

“Jonah was obviously intelligent and humble and just wanted a shot at being part of the team,” Welch said, “so my sprints/jumps coach Rebecca Rhodes and I gave him a shot.”

From walk-on to NAIA Indoor Nationals contender.

“In the first week or so of his freshman year, Jonah was in our small practice gym watching some athletes work out in an event he had never seen before when he asked us, ‘What is that and can I try it?’” Welch said.

Pole vault hasn’t been in offered in Alaska in more than 30 years.

“That very attitude is what really got me to thinking about having him try the multi events,” Welch said.