06/07/05 — Male Track POY -- Injury-free, relaxed season helped Collins

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Male Track POY -- Injury-free, relaxed season helped Collins

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 7, 2005 2:22 PM

An injury-free, relaxing season.

Will Collins couldn't have devised a better formula for his senior year -- and illustrious running career -- at Eastern Wayne.

His main focus, obviously, was to emerge a state champion in at least one long-distance event. Added to that was the incentive to eliminate some playful ribbing he normally received from sister Jessica, who also exited a state title-holder for the Warriors.

"We've always competed," a laughing Will said.

But now, like Jessica, he's got a photo where he proudly shows off not one, but two gold medals after competition in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A track and field championships. Collins prevailed in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter events.

"We didn't have many meets this year, so I was able to relax and not push things," said Collins. "I was lucky to have an injury-free season. Everything seemed to go pretty good for us."


Leading up to the state meet, Collins put together short, tune-up workouts -- sprints in intervals of 100, 200 and 400 meters. Each portion helped him develop a comfortable pace that undoubtedly proved critical in his final prep meet.

"At the state meet, kids like to start fast and ruin themselves after the first lap," Collins said. "I'm able to run that pace and be like just half a second off sometimes."

Collins used that strategy to perfection.

In the 1,600-meter event, his main competitor was Josh Morgan, a junior from T.C. Roberson. Morgan had participated in a short race and Collins figured he'd have the fresher legs.

He was right.

"I knew I had one guy to beat in that race, so I focused on him," Collins said. "I kinda hung back there for the first couple of laps."

With less than 300 meters remaining, Collins out-kick Morgan and created some comfortable running room. He cruised to his first gold medal and a personal-best time of 4 minutes, 23.6 seconds.

The 3,200-meter race wasn't much different.

Asheville's Chet Howland and Smoky Mountain's Travis Brotherton, both juniors, had turned in regional times close to Collins. Collins wanted to use the same strategy, but changed it early in the race.

"A little earlier than I wanted to, I took the lead because the pace was kind of slow," Collins said. "I put a little distance between me and the second-place guy. He began to catch me with a lap to go, but I was able to kick it in.

"I wasn't really worried about anybody catching me or anything."

Collins crossed the finish line in 9:38.52 -- nearly six seconds faster than Howland and eight-plus seconds better than Brotherton.

Not long after the race's completion, Collins climbed onto the highest podium and had a second gold medal placed around his neck.

"It's pretty nice when you work hard all season and you get what you work for," said Collins.

Collins wasn't sure how he'd do this season. A stress fracture in his left foot prevented him from running in last year's state meet. It also limited his workouts last summer and rendered his ability to find a consistent pace during cross country season.

He worked diligently and set his goals for the spring.

Once he completed his first meet, Collins' intensity and desire had returned.

"A lot of people don't see it as a big-time competitive sport, but it really is," said Collins, who signed a national letter-of-intent with East Carolina. "I didn't think it would be as exciting as other sports, but when you get five or six guys around you, that gets the adrenaline pumping.

"All four years, you build yourself up to compete at that level. It was nice being able to go out on top and it was nice to get those while Jessica was there watching."