John Coaker established himself as one of the top runners in Newfoundland and Labrador in the early 1960s with a wonderful display of victories with excellent times in a variety of distances. His overall performances were of such a high calibre that he was considered one of the best track and field athletes for his time.
Recovering from a serious injury when he was 13, his career opened with three impressive performances in high school sports. His one mile run was only two seconds off the provincial record, he added a gold medal in the 440 yards, which was only three seconds behind the provincial record, and he won the 220 yards, only four seconds behind the Newfoundland record. He followed up with a three mile run of 16:25 that shattered the provincial record.
At the 1962 provincial juvenile track and field championships on Bell Island, he registered wins in the one mile run, the 800 yard run and the 440 yard run. It was a clear demonstration of his ability and determination.
1963 was another tremendous year as he won the five mile road race and at the provincial championships in Gander he was first in the 440 yard, the 880 yards and the one mile run as he further established himself as one of the province’s finest runners.
1964 was his first year of senior competition and after placing second in a six mile run, he had an outstanding showing in the provincial track and field championships in St. John’s. He was first in the 440 yards and first in the 880 yards and contributed greatly to the CLB team that won the senior team title.
In 1965 he was one of four athletes from the province selected to attend a national track and field meet in Saint John, New Brunswick, which attracted more than 4,000 athletes from across Canada and he was the most successful Newfoundland and Labrador athlete. He utilized the training he received at the national event and in the provincial championships set a record in the 880 yard run with a time of two minutes flat. He also won medals in the 440 yards and one mile runs. He later won a one mile run with a time of 4:41, just six seconds off the provincial record and for the second time he placed second in the Telegram ten mile run.
In all of his track and field endeavours, he was a member of CLB teams and was a valuable contributor to the continuing success that these teams achieved in Newfoundland and Labrador track and field.
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