News-Argus Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year -- Will Collins
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on November 17, 2004 1:56 PM
Eastern Wayne senior Will Collins posted some lofty achievements in his four-year cross-country career.
In his final three seasons, he was the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference champion and the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern regional winner all three years. His junior and senior seasons, he won the individual Wayne County title.
This year, he ran 16 minutes, four seconds at the regionals at Nash Central and turned in the fastest time in any of the four regionals in North Carolina. He capped his stellar career with a second-place finish at the state meet at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons. Despite some key injuries, the Warriors still finished fifth overall in the state as a team.
Still, despite the attention often given to the individual in cross country, Collins continued to put the team first.
"He's been a leader since his sophomore year. This year it's been an asset ... helping to train and recruit," Warrior coach Vince Beasley said. "His ability is also an example. He's all about the team. He ran a few races, where he helped pace the guys trying to get them up to speed to get them to push a little bit during the race.
"He could have won every race he ran if he would have been looking out for himself."
Due to his ability to lead by example and keep the team in mind first -- on top of his stellar individual accomplishments, Collins is the 2004 News-Argus boys cross country athlete of the year. Collins, the son of Bob and Lynn Collins, also won the award as a junior.
He suffered a stress fracture in his leg during the state championship last season, but finished the race and finished 64th overall as Eastern Wayne took fourth as a team in 2003. Unlike the two previous years, Collins took indoor track and spring track season off to recover, then began training again in July.
"I've been lucky injury-wise, but that kind of happened at the wrong time," Collins said. "That's about the only thing I've ever had trouble with."
As a freshman, current Mount Olive runner Tim Insley was a senior with the Warriors. The same year Will's sister, Jessica Collins, helped guide the Warrior girls to their second state title in as many years. Beasley believes those two examples were key to Collins' formation as a runner and leader.
"The girls team won two state championships under her (Jessica) leadership, and Tim provided him an example also," Beasley said. "I see a lot of that same determination and work ethic in Will. He also has very supportive parents. The team has been a strong social influence on the kids involved."
Collins recently made the decision to run at the college level at East Carolina University. His sister is currently a senior on the Pirates' women's cross country team.
Especially late in his senior season, Collins and the Warriors had to deal with their fair share of adversity. Their third and fourth runners, Michael Lawrence and Justin Bernel, were injured at various times -- forcing other runners to step up in their absence. Collins is proud of how the way his teammates responded.
"Our three and four guys went down and the other guys had one of their best races of the whole season at the state meet. That's why we finished in fifth place," Collins said. "We got lucky picking up some young guys and some first year runners. They ran well the whole season."
He's also confident the team can continue the tradition of being one of the more dominant cross country programs in the state.
"Every year the goal is to keep it going," Collins said. "We've done it every year and next year Matt (Interrante) and Michael (Lawrence) will still be there. They are good lead runners, and they will definitely keep it going. They'll have the experience now."
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