June 10, 2014
EUGENE, Oregon - As Clinton Collins crossed the finish line of last week’s final of the 400-meter dash at the NCAA West Preliminary Track and Field Meet championships, the Mean Green senior sprinter found himself fighting back tears.
It had taken four years and two coaches, but Collins had shattered a career’s worth of goals. He had broken 46 seconds, a personal goal. He had set the school record at 45.76 seconds. He had captured first place in the 400 at the Conference USA championships. Now, he had punched his ticket to the 2014 NCAA Track and Field championships.
“Arguably, the best moment in my life,” Collins said. “Breaking that forty-six second barrier and setting the school record, tears of joy came springing up when I did it. It felt as if I had had two weights of overbearing obstacles fall off my back in one race. What an amazing feeling of relief.”
Collins will compete in his first NCAA championships Wednesday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, when he runs in the 400 semifinals at 7 p.m. central time. Collins enters the meet seeded 19th, but he’s been making a habit this spring of exceeding expectations.
“Clinton has the story of the year,” said head coach Carl Sheffield. “It’s been a long time coming for him to reach the championship meet. Having two coaches throughout his four years it finally clicked as a senior and is a great accomplishment.”
Collins currently holds the top-two fastest times in school history, as the only 400m specialist to run faster than 46 seconds.
“Coach Sheffield built my strength to where I could be resilient enough to handle the fatigue that comes from multiple races a day, which ultimately led to me being able to run faster consistently.”
In the past two years under Sheffield, Clinton has added his name to the North Texas top-performance list five times, three of which still stand today at 45.76, 45.85, and 46.22.
“What I will take from coach is that if you communicate effectively with an athlete you can get the most out of them on and off the competition situation of sport,” said Collins.