Two-time U.S. Olympian PattiSue Plumer has run through it all. From racing throughout the world to coaching at high school and college levels, the former Los Altos High School cross-country and track and field coach now works with student-athletes at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I love the challenge of running,” the former Los Altos resident said. “Putting yourself out there and really seeing how good you could be, that was what really motivated me as an athlete.”
Plumer coached at Los Altos from 2006 to 2011. She then served as the head track and field and cross-country coach at Gunn High School for six years while also coaching at Stanford University. In 2018, Plumer received an offer to be the assistant coach at UT Austin.
“I thought that this was a really good opportunity, a good time in my life to make a change and do something different,” Plumer said. “I really realized what a great university it is; it’s really a magical place. It’s a really incredible combination of athletics and academics, and it’s a very dynamic place to be.”
Under Plumer’s guidance, her athletes landed in the top 10 all-time at UT Austin for every event she coached, and four of her athletes broke school records. Her team has received multiple academic All-American and athletic All-American titles, gone to nationals for cross-country and contended for Big 12 Conference championships.
Despite the pandemic, Plumer’s cross-country team is currently training and she is hopeful they will compete in races this year.
“We really are excited to be the very best in the nation here,” she said. “We have a team that has potential to win national championships this year, should COVID allow it. I really like being part of that and that people are really dedicated and care about the sport here. It’s a completely new adventure for me.”
Plumer noted that she applies the same fundamental principles when coaching at the high school or college level.
“Coaching is coaching, and there are similarities,” she said. “For me, I really try to coach the individuals and I really value my athletes. I work with what they have and are able to do, and that kind of stays the same no matter if you’re a 10-minute miler or a national champion.”
Plumer added that it is, in some ways, more practical to coach at the college level due to additional resources and the athletes’ level of competition.
“The definition of success changes when you’re at a (NCAA) Division I school that strives to be the best in the country,” she said. “I think the biggest difference is that you have athletes who are really committed to the sport, and they’re doing it at this point because they love it and they want to be great.”
Plumer has found value in her relationships with those she has worked with through her numerous coaching positions.
“Coaching, for me, is an opportunity to get back to a sport that was really important to me and to really provide that kind of leadership and support for young athletes as they transition to a really exciting part of their life and at the same time trying to be national or world-class athletes,” she said. “I think that’s really rewarding, and I enjoy those relationships and being a part of their lives at a critical time.”