Luke Coulter vividly recalls the sharp post-workout sensation he experienced during his freshman season as a Stony Brook cross country and track runner.
“I was going to my cooldown and then, all of a sudden, I felt shooting pain in my lower back,” he said. “I was like ‘Oh, this is definitely not good.'”
After he persisted with his running, the pain became overwhelming.
An MRI revealed the precise diagnosis: a sacral stress fracture.
The injury knocked Coulter out of competition for the entire season. As a freshman just adjusting to the college level, it was unfortunate timing.
Now, though, that experience has made his rebirth that much more sweet.
The 2016 Riverhead High School graduate experienced resounding success during last fall’s cross country season, which has carried over to indoor track.
In the fall, Coulter was named to the all-conference first team. His 24:04.40 time in the 8K at the conference championship helped lead Stony Brook to the America East title for the third time in four years.
Coulter then became an individual America East indoor track champion two weekends ago, winning the 1000-meter run in 2:24.56.
Coulter also twice emerged as a relay champion, winning gold and setting school records in both the distance medley relay and the 4×800 relay.
“There’s something about a relay,” Coulter said. “There’s something about having the baton in your hand that makes you want to just go. You’re not just running for yourself anymore. You’re running for the three other guys with you.”
Coulter admitted that early in his career, injury aside, he did not take his training as seriously as is required of a collegiate athlete. For a while, his teammates were upset with him because his lack of focus was negatively affecting the team’s performance.
Then came the summer of 2018.
“Going into my junior year, over that summer, I took on some more responsibilities, and that’s when I realized what was actually important,” Coulter said. “I took my training much more seriously and that showed.”
Coach Andy Ronan noted stress fractures often derail collegiate runners’ careers. Coulter was nearly one of those victims.
“I almost gave up,” he said.
The renaissance following the stress fracture has not gone unnoticed.
“He’s taken it to such a level in the last two years,” Ronan said.