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Late start no problem for Coffaro

Slippery Rock High School senior Julia Coffaro, seated at right, signs a letter of intent to continue her academic and track and field career at Slippery Rock University. She is joined by, from left, her father Rob Coffaro, sisters Sophia and Gina, and her mother, Kim Coffaro. John Enrietto/Butler Eagle
Slippery Rock senior continuing academic, track and field career at SRU

SLIPPERY ROCK — When Julia Coffaro returned to track and field, she didn’t figure it would be for the long term.

The Slippery Rock High School senior has barely scratched the surface in terms of her jumping ability, but hopes to realize that potential in college after recently signing a letter of intent to continue her academic and track and field career at Slippery Rock University.

“I was going to do track my freshman year, but then we lost that season to COVID and I didn’t come back out for my sophomore season,” Coffaro said. “I was more involved in basketball by then.”

Coffaro was a solid basketball player for the Rockets — averaging 6.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 steals her senior season — but decided to give track and field another try in the spring of her junior year.

“I wanted to do a sport in the spring,” she said.

SRU jumps coach Tabitha Bemis saw Coffaro jump during a high school meet. Next thing Coffaro knew, she was headed for The Rock.

She plans to major in early childhood special education.

“My mother works at SRU, so I knew I’d be going there from the start ... I wasn’t planning on competing in college,” Coffaro admitted. “I mean, I didn’t have much technique, had very little experience. I guess Coach Bemis saw something because she approached me and talked to me about it.”

“She saw potential,” Slippery Rock High School coach Tom Meling said of Bemis. “Julia has plenty of it.”

Coffaro qualified for the PIAA Championships in the long jump with a personal-best leap of 17 feet, 1.5 inches this season. Her best triple jump of 35 feet, 4.5 inches ranked fifth in Butler County this season.

“Julia has all of the components to be a good jumper,” Meling said. “She’s tall. She has good speed and leaping ability. She’s still learning, that’s all.

“The long jump is her best event right now, but her triple jump is going to wind up being just as good.”

Coffaro also contributed to the Rockets’ 4x100 meter relay along with running the 100 and 200 meters.

“She always fares well on her last jump (in a meet),” Meling said. “Julia rises to the occasion. She hits high quality jumps when she needs them.”

SRU’s women’s track and field team won the PSAC championship this spring in Bill Jordan’s first year as head coach. He spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach at The Rock.

Bemis has spent seven years as a collegiate jump coach and has been an assistant on The Rock’s staff since 2021. She’s coached 11 All-Americans, 23 national qualifiers, 79 all-region performers and 59 conference champions. A-C Valley graduate Baylee Blauser and Slippery Rock High graduate Katie Book were freshman jumpers at SRU this year.

“I just want to keep getting better,” Coffaro said. “Learn and work on the proper technique and see how far it gets me.”

Meling looks forward to seeing the results.

“She’s put so much time into basketball,” the coach said. “Now she will be concentrating solely on track and I expect to see her take tremendous strides.

“I know she’s happy she came back out for track. She’s discovered this is her better sport.”

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