Garfield girl moves up to national magazine
By LuJane Nisse
When a small town girl grows up, leaves for the cold cruel world and makes it. despite a lot of hard knocks, the entire community stands and applauds as they feel they played a small part in her success.
Katie Coles grew up in Garfield becoming a shining a star for the Garfield-Palouse Vikings in several different sports, still holding several county records. Many would say it was inevitable as her father Tim Coles (now principal of Garfield-Palouse School) was one of the top 10 most winning coaches in Washington State History. Her mom, Tina, taught school and was revered as so caring and loving, she was sought after from parents to enroll their children in her class.
Katie does not discount at all the influence of her community, as the town of Garfield AND Palouse would turn out in droves to cheer the team and were amazed at that determined young girl they called “Katie Coles … do or die.”
The communities’ awe of her, her father’s coaching and a mom’s tender love shaped a young woman with a true “do or die” determination. After her graduation in 2000 she was recruited for a track and field scholarship at Eastern Washington University. She competed in heptathlon and later switched over to pole vaulting. She fell in love with pole vaulting which gave her bursts of adrenaline because it was so challenging and dangerous. It appeared “Katie do or die” had found her niche. Although she didn’t start the sport until in her 20s, she got very good very fast. “I had no fear of getting hurt or missing the pit even though a friend of mine had nearly died pole vaulting, sustaining some permanent brain damage after a terrible pole vault accident,” Katie says.
Perhaps, she wonders, if that lack of fear is what ultimately led to the end of her pole vaulting career. She broke her leg in a pole vaulting accident in April 2003. It was a bad break and the injury changed the way she ran and eventually led to her knees breaking down.
“One chink in the armor affects the next,” she said.
She had surgery on her right knee in 2006 and that ended her dream of competing in elite athletics as she had dreamed.
“I had to give up pole vaulting and any other sport that required running,” she said. “This may not seem so cataclysmic to anyone else, but sports had been my entire identity… It was my purpose, my outlet, my chosen form of expression, and my meditation. When I lost sports, I lost myself and my coping mechanism for all of life’s challenges. Without sports I was forced to turn inward and to establish a new identity and cultivate new coping skills.”
To add to Katie’s challenges in the next few years, she broke off a long relationship and with any relationship comes a time of mourning and letting go which led to living in her car and on friends’ couches for a while as she struggled with the agony of trying to “find” herself again.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.” Even though she was floundering she had the “drive” to move forward and did graduate from collage with her Bachelor of Science degree in biology, even though she wasn’t sure what she’d do with it.
Ironically, she started getting very sick about this time and was hospitalized on several occasions with strange symptoms including intestinal issues, skin rashes, nerve pain, facial pain, migraines, joint pain and fatigue. The doctors were perplexed and continued to send her home with no remedy or diagnosis for her ailment. “By 2008 the symptoms were so bad that I couldn’t even hold a job,” she said. “I found myself jobless with no answer to my failing health, and no light at the end of the tunnel.”
That year her parents, Tim and Tina, had gone to a family funeral and mentioned Katie’s medical problems to his aunts. They were not mystified in the least and told him it was Celiac disease and it runs in the family. It is an autoimmune reaction to gluten in wheat, rye, oats and barley.
“Sure enough,” Katie said, “I cut gluten and within six months I felt better than I ever had in my life. My symptoms got better and I felt like I’d been given a second chance at life.”
In 2007, Katie was sure she found the void left in her life by sports. She started competing in fitness shows and became a sought after model. Competing in “fitness” doesn’t require running, she informed, you just improve your physique by manipulating nutrition and lifting weights. She found great success in the industry and by 2009 she had won several shows, placing nationally five times!!
Because she was able to heal herself with nutrition, her “second shot at life” led her to return to school and earn a Masters Degree in nutrition. She then became a registered dietitian and got a job with a health and wellness company working in their research and development department. She now helps create new functional foods and supplements with an emphasis on sports products. She works with universities around the national to run studies on the company’s nutrition products and systems. She also writes nutrition and fitness articles for the company’s website and does public speaking to help continue the education in this field. She enjoys writing about sports nutrition and educating athletes on products and how they cam improve their body composition and improve their sports performance.
Katie admits she has a fear of public speaking and since this is part of her job she decided to join Toastmasters and finds herself speaking in front of 1500 people with confidence.
She gives her father a lot of credit saying his character and life philosophies sort of “rubbed off” on her. “He was my hero growing up and I wanted to be just like him,” she smiles. “He helped cultivate my love of sports, which ultimately contributed to my passion.” Tim Coles is a man of determination and integrity. Probably everyone that knows him agrees with that.
“The biggest thing I learned from him and that I continue to use in my every day life is to ‘leave everything you have on the court,’ give all of yourself, work hard and never quit.” That is something he taught all his athletes.
“And although I talk a lot about my dad, I also have to add that my mom was instrumental in my journey,” her voice quiets with emotion. “Behind every great man is a woman. My mom is my dad’s support system, as well as mine. No one ever emphasizes that enough. Every step of my journey, she has been behind me supporting me. She is the most unselfish person I know, and she is my best friend.”
Even though Katie writes several columns a month she has been chosen to write a new column for Gurls magazine and since she will chose the topics they will have her passion as well as her expertise entwined in them. This magazine can be found at http://www.fitnessgurls.com/new/ and is a bi-monthly publication. It is going to be published in printed format soon. Katie will be a featured model in each issue as well, along with the column.
- Basketball: 2nd team all-state high school basketball selection, 3 time all Whitman county selection, holds Garfield-Palouse high-school all time scoring record
- Track: Holds high school Garfield-Palouse records in long jump, high jump, 100 meter hurdles, triple jump, 2 individual state championship titles (triple jump, 100 meter hurdles), 9 top 5 individual state placings, Member of state championship track team (1998)
- Volleyball: Co-captain of State Championship volleyball team (1999), all league honors
- NCAA collegiate pole vaulter
- 4th highest all-time jump (pole vault) at University of New Mexico
- Four top-5 placings in National bikini and figure championships (USAs 2009, USAs 2010, USAs 1012, Nationals 2012)
- Excalibur Figure Class F Winner (Culver City, CA 2007)
- Overall bikini champion title at NPC USA Western Regional Bodybuilding Championships (Pheonix, AZ 2012)
- Dennis James Classic Bikini Class F Winner (Phoenix AZ 2014)
- Several magazine spreads, including an international cover (May 2009)
- Fitness model for Power Systems catalog
- Fitness model for Isagenix Share the Shot marketing campaign and materials
- Female Model in Bret Contreras bodyweight book (2013) and iTunes app