Going the Distance

Categories: Winter 2013
Chuck Koeppen has a lot to celebrate. At 67 years old, he continues to coach track and cross country, has a close-knit family, and his prostate cancer has been cured.
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Koeppen and his wife Cathie (center), and their children (left to right) Charlie, Christie, Cherie, and Carrie.

Since 1968, Chuck Koeppen has been helping students achieve their athletic goals as a cross country and track coach. His enthusiasm for coaching is evident. “It’s an incredible job,” he said. “I have a passion for the sport, but it’s about working with individual kids on a daily basis. It’s rewarding every day.” Koeppen coached high school students for most of his career, and now he is the head coach of men’s cross country and track at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

Koeppen’s running career began with his high school cross country and track team in Valparaiso, Indiana. His older brother encouraged his interest in athletics, and his high school coach supported his efforts. “I had a great high school coach who meant a lot to me. I looked up to him,” he said. Koeppen’s coach inspired him to pursue a career in coaching and teaching. Koeppen attended Ball State University, where he majored in physical education and broke six running records on the cross country team.

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Koeppen running the Boston Marathon in 1972. He placed 37th.

Successful Career

Koeppen’s record illustrates his dedication to the sport and his runners. He coached at Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana, for 37 years and won 23 state championships. This is the most wins any head coach in any sport has ever had in Indiana. Among other awards, Koeppen has been named National High School Cross Country Coach of the Year, National High School Track Coach of the Year, and Indiana High School Cross Country Coach of the Year for both boys and girls numerous times.

In June, Koeppen achieved the prestigious honor of being inducted into the NFHS National High School Hall of Fame in Denver, Colorado. Only 13 inductees were selected, including former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann and NBA player Chauncey Billups. After the induction, Koeppen received letters and emails from former students telling him how he has affected their lives. “I hope I mean as much to the boy and girls that I coached as my high school coach meant to me,” he said.

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Koeppen at the NFHS National High School Hall of Fame induction ceremony with Bobby Cox, Commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association and former member of Koeppen’s high school track team.

Facing Cancer

Three years ago, Koeppen was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “When the doctor told me that I had prostate cancer, I was floored. Then I found out it can be removed,” Koeppen said. His older brother is a prostate cancer survivor and one of Dr. Catalona’s patients. Upon his brother’s recommendation, Koeppen met and selected Dr. Catalona for his prostate cancer treatment. Since his surgery, Koeppen’s PSA has been 0. He and his brother travel to Chicago together each year to see Dr. Catalona.

Prior to having cancer, Koeppen’s health had been excellent. “I always felt invincible,” he said. Now, he appreciates his health and enjoys his life to his fullest. “Being treated for cancer has given me a better outlook, and I appreciate things more knowing that my cancer is gone.” Koeppen said. He believes his training as a runner and coach helped him get through his cancer treatment. “I’ve learned to get through things and face challenges,” he said.

When he’s not coaching, Koeppen enjoys spending time with his family. Koeppen and his wife Cathie have been married for over 40 years. They have four adult children and four grandchildren who live within 10 miles of their home in Carmel, Indiana.

Koeppen celebrating with his team after winning the Indiana state championship in 2008.

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