Coach Spotlight: Michigan native uses passion, excitement to lead team

Ben Morrow
Staff writer

Photo by Tab Brockman/Courtesy of Sports Information

Jenny Severns is pumped about being the head coach of Murray State’s track and cross country teams. Five minutes of conversation with her will leave no doubt.

Just 31 years old, the energetic coach is nearing the end of her second cross country season and enthusiasm for running and for her young athletes is apparent.

“I’m very outgoing. I know what I want. I love coaching and I love running, and I think that that comes across very well,” Severns said. “I’m used to talking about the team, not me,” she added with a laugh.

Severns, a Michigan native, explained the path that brought her to Murray State.

“I started running in fourth grade,” Severns said. “All the cool people ran in elementary track. I actually started training in fifth grade, which is kind of funny looking back.”

Severns ran for the cross country and track teams for Central Michigan University while earning a degree in applied arts. She also spent time coaching track at Mt. Pleasant High School.

After graduation, Severns served as an assistant coach at Dickenson College in North Carolina for one year before spending four years as an assistant coach at UNC-Greensboro. Her brief coaching tenure has produced numerous award-winning athletes on the track, on the field and in the classroom.

Severns said her athletes have not forgotten the importance of keeping their grades up.

“It’s always one of our goals to have one of the highest GPAs in the athletic department,” she said. “We’re strict about study hall, grades and missing practice. If you miss practice, you miss the next meet. They’re just really good kids and I don’t have to be that mean to make them do what they need to do.”

Severns said she has had a love/hate relationship with running ever since she started.

“I seriously think you can get addicted to running the same way people get addicted to drugs,” she said. “If I can’t run, it puts me in a bad mood and I feel really tired. You just get used to exercising every day. You either love it or you look at it as punishment. But I love it.”

Severns is a fanatical runner, having competed in numerous marathons, including six appearances in the prestigious Boston Marathon, and said coaching is a special profession that brings great rewards.

“People that coach don’t coach to make money, they coach because it’s what they love to do,” she said. “I love to coach. I love to see people get better and achieve their goals. And I love to run, so I want to be that kind of coach where when my athletes graduate, they want to keep doing it.”

The Racer athletes demonstrate the fearless attitude of their coach.

“We have some fighters,” she said. “I love our team this year. We’re a really young team. Five of our top seven this year are freshmen and sophomores. They go out; they work hard everyday. They push each other. If I tell them ‘I want you to give everything you have in this race,’ I know they’re going to. They’re not wimps. They’re willing to work hard and they’re willing to hurt and they know that you have to hurt in order to be successful. That’s what cross country is all about. The team that can push the hardest when it hurts is the team that’s going to win.”

Severns said she is optimistic about the future of the program.

“With such a young team, you never know how it’s going to turn out – how they’re going to adjust to college life – but I couldn’t have asked for a better situation right now,” she said. “We’re going into the OVC meet very confident. We’re confident we can beat people that don’t expect us to beat them. We’re going to scare the crap out of them. I think we are in a really good position going into the championship part of our season.”