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Berkowitz: 'I love this place'

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East Carolina track and field assistant coach Brie Berkowitz sits in her office and looks at a photo of her as a pole vaulter for the Pirates.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The time just after former East Carolina pole vaulter Brie Berkowitz completed her master’s degree at ECU was defined by a series of internships.

She did broadcasting for football camps, coordinated travel for various teams with the Miami Hurricanes and worked in sales and marketing for the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers. The Pennsylvania native, who was a two-time team captain for ECU track and field from 2003-07, was actually coaching gymnastics in Florida when she heard about an assistant coach opening with the Pirates.

It was the perfect opportunity.

“I had always said that I would love to coach at ECU,” said Berkowitz, who has been guiding the Pirate pole vaulters since August of 2012. “I don’t know if anybody really believed me because they thought that I was in Miami and doing all these things and why would I want to leave there.

“I just loved it here and I had such a great experience as a student-athlete with four years of track and field and I was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and a team captain and loved my professors. I always had the best things to say about at East Carolina.”

A sticking point in the difference between Berkowitz as a student-athlete and Berkowitz the coach comes in the Pirates’ top-notch facility located along Charles Boulevard. It was built in 2011 and prior to that breakthrough, athletes in multiple sports used Bunting Field to train.

“I tell our athletes all the time about how we would be out there while the soccer team is practicing and I’m on the pole vault runway and dodging soccer balls and they are kicking them back,” Berkowitz said. “At the time I didn’t really think any differently because that’s what we did, and it was practice time. So when I came back here as a coach and saw this, I was just so taken back and it’s beautiful here.

“To have our own facility is remarkable. We still compete at a lot of different tracks and facilities of programs that do share with soccer or another sport, so it is a neat thing for our athletes and a huge advantage to have this facility all to ourselves.”

The ECU women’s soccer and lacrosse teams now share Johnson Stadium, which replaced Bunting Field and opened in 2011.

Joining Berkowitz on the track staff as a former Pirate athlete is sprint, relays and hurdles coach Udon Cheek.

Veteran head coach Curt Kraft said having them on the recruiting trail is valuable because of the personal touch they can share with prospects. Kraft added that the passion he remembers about Berkowitz as an athlete comes through in her coaching style.

“Her attitude and her enthusiasm was very contagious to the team, and she was a really good leader in athletics and academics,” he said. “It’s just neat to have her back here coaching. It’s something she loves to do and she does a fantastic job.”

Berkowitz might have been destined to be a track coach. Her father, Marvin, is a high school cross country and track and field coach in Pennsylvania, and her mother, Darla, ran cross country at York (Pa.) College.

Brie said her journey at ECU included living at Belk Dorm and eating at Todd Dining Hall and she went through a lot of the same experiences that current Pirates face during their careers. That trait is paramount in her connecting to her pupils.

“I use it all the time because I am a Pirate,” she said. “I love this place and believe in it. I obviously am competitive and want the team to do well, but more importantly I cherish the experience of building relationships with these student-athletes and helping them become better men and women.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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