Pressure? Coachman Has Seen His Fair Share

There are all kind of pressures in life and Golden Coachman has seen most. The Mississippi State junior track star has been stationed in Iraq for a year and three weeks. He faced the pressure of driving trucks hoping no roadside bombs would be in the direction of his convoy. And then Coachman has faced pressure on the athletic front, facing the best runners in the country.

But there are definitely differences in the types of pressure that Coachman has faced.

"Obviously there are different types of pressure," said Coachman. "The one over in Iraq can be life-threatening and anything can happen on convoys, especially with IED (explosive devices) attacks.

"(And) there is pressure running track in the SEC but it is not life-threatening. The intensity may be the same but not life-threatening."

After his first season at Wallace Community College, Coachman went to Iraq and then returned for his sophomore campaign in the juco ranks where he earned all-American honors.

Yes, track was on his mind in Iraq but it took a major backseat to his family back home.

"All I could think about was getting back to see my daughter," said Coachman. "I got to see the birth of my little girl (Makaria) but then I had to go back. When I got back she was already eight months old. So once I took care of getting back safely and seeing her, then I started worrying about track and field."

Which is where coach Steve Dudley and Mississippi State came into the picture.

Coachman, who specializes in the 800 meters and also 1500 meters, didn't receive much attention other than the Bulldogs right away.

But when Coachman posted a 1:49 in the 800 meters, several other schools got in the recruiting scene with the Birmingham native who graduated from Huffman High School.

However, Dudley and Mississippi State were there from the start and that played a major role in Coachman's choice at the Division 1 level.

"MSU was the only ones to come and sit and talk with me," said Coachman. "Coach Dudley was the only one to offer me until I ran a 1:49 then all the other schools got interested. But I went to the place that was on me from the start."

Not only was State the first to offer and Coachman's choice, he made an immediate bond with Dudley.

"I love the way Coach Dudley leads us," said Coachman. "He is wired 24/7 and puts as much into practice as you do pushing yourself. He pushes us so much in practice.

"I think we are perfect together. I never say 'no' and have no questions with his coaching. I do what he coaches us to do and everything works out well."

And it has worked out well for Coachman this season, his first on the Division 1 level.

Earlier this month, Coachman finished third in the 800 meters with a time of one minute and 47.40 seconds. That time was also the second-best in school history.

But it's a time that Coachman believes he can improve on this weekend at the NCAA Mideast Regional, which got underway on Friday in Columbia, Mo.

"I look forward to it because my time in the SECs was not my fastest because I had just run the 1500 meters," said Coachman. "I should have fresh legs running just the 800 meters." [Coachman successfully qualified for the NCAA Championships at the Mideast Regional.-Gene]

Heading into the NCAA Mideast Regional, Coachman was ranked eighth nationally in the 800 meters by Trackwire.com.

But he was also quick to point out that this regional field is the toughest regional in the country.

"We have some of the top times going in the Mideast Regional, myself and two guys from LSU," said Coachman. "So it is definitely the hardest regional.

"It will be my first time ever to run at Missouri. I have never been on their campus and I hope they have a good track."

Coachman admits that his success this season was not expected. Sure he wanted to compete at the highest level but he just didn't know the company he would be competing against in the 800 meters.

"I am so excited because it's my first year at Mississippi State and I qualified for the regionals with one of the fastest times in the country," said Coachman. "I didn't expect this and was caught by surprise somewhat.

"I really didn't know what to expect in the SECs because I didn't know what my body would do in the 800 meters after running the 1500. I didn't expect this much success so soon but Coach Dudley has been a major part of that."

Coachman still has his sights on qualifying for the NCAA Championships, which get started on June 6 in Sacramento, Calif.

As Coachman works to continue his time in the 800 meters, he is also living up to his first name of Golden.

"My great grandfather gave me that name after himself," said Coachman. "He gave me the name and it fits well and has worked out for me so far."

He is also anticipating a solid senior season next year. And with his military background, Coachman has a couple of options.

"First I want to get my degree in school and also in the ROTC program," said Coachman. "By the time I get my degree next year I will also get my commission from the ROTC so that I could be an officer.

"On the track, I want to maintain my speed and keep improving my times, get to regionals again and move on to the NCAA Championships. Then I will just see how things for from there, maybe on the pro level."

And that would be a far cry from Iraq, a place that will forever hold a lasting memory for Coachman naturally. But that doesn't mean he hasn't wished to be back in Iraq, at least one time in preseason training.

"That really brings up a funny thing that happened to me in training," said Coachman. "We were out there one day training and it was hot and all that. Coach Dudley asked me if I would rather be here or driving a truck in Iraq. At that moment, I told him I would rather be driving a truck in Iraq."


Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at pjones@cdispatch.com.

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