Monroe sophomore looks to continue tradition set by graduating teammates
by Aaron Garcia
When the Monroe High School girls track and field team took the top spot on the podium at this year’s Class 1A state championship meet in May, it marked the end of an impressive era for Redhawk stars Janieyah “Ladybug” Collins and Jamie Glenn. Together, the pair of seniors helped mold Monroe into a state power almost by themselves. Collins had the sprinting events covered, winning state titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and the 300 hurdles. Meanwhile, Glenn earned the team’s points in the field events such as the long jump, triple jump and shot put while also filling in on several relay teams.
At this year’s state meet alone, the duo compiled a combined 64 points, better than what second-place Hendersonville put together as a team (54), with Collins earning the meet’s Most Outstanding Performer honors. It was the third time in four years that Collins had won at least one title, and it was the third consecutive year with a championship for Glenn.
Collins and Glenn were the kind of tandem that only comes along every so often, said Monroe head track and field coach Johnny Sowell.
“When you start getting (championships) back-to-back-to-back, you’ve got something special,” Sowell said.
The Redhawks, however, are not facing the kind of dreaded rebuilding process that would be expected after the graduation of two standout athletes of Collins’ and Glenn’s caliber, not with Reneazia Collins still on the roster.
This season Renaziah Collins – no relation to Ladybug – emerged as a dangerous weapon in her own right. The sophomore sprinter won the 400-meter dash and the 100 hurdles, and placed second in the 200 behind only Ladybug. She also helped the 4×200 relay team to a state title. It was an impressive performance, to be sure. But perhaps more important, it showed the rest of the state that the program’s success was not destined to end with the departure of Ladybug and Glenn.
“Talent-wise, with her work ethic and confidence, she’s picking up right where these ladies are leaving off,” said Monroe girls track coach Nichole Jackson.
In many ways, Reneazia has found a natural fit with track and field. That was immediately evident to Jackson when the coach first saw her run as a freshman.
“I remember when she came out for (the first) indoor (practice), I called Coach Sowell and was like, ‘Come to the track!’” Jackson recalled. “You could just watch her. Younger athletes typically don’t have that talent, but you could see she had it, and if she would stick with it and was willing to do the work, there would be a lot of potential down the road.”
As a freshman, Reneazia took third in the 300 hurdles and added to two winning relays during the Class 1A/2A/3A indoor track state meet.
“I think (that performance) fed her confidence even more because in outdoor (track season in the spring), she was like, ‘Oh, I can actually run with some of these kids,’” said Jackson.
The thing that has helped set Reneazia apart, however, is the fact that she opted to take advantage of having Ladybug and Glenn around rather than simply wait for her time to shine. Jackson said it became a common sight to see Reneazia shadowing Ladybug during the upperclassman’s workouts.
If Ladybug was working on high-knee drills, so was Reneazia. If Ladybug was sprinting, so was Reneazia. It was a practical practice. Why would a young sprinter not try to mirror one of the state’s best? Reneazia said becoming close with Ladybug also helped her to overcome some physical obstacles.
“Both of us have asthma, and I know even when she’s tired she pushes through it,” said Reneazia. “That makes me want to work harder. If she can do it, I can do it, too. That’s one of the things I’ve learned from her.”
But on the flip side, she wasn’t exactly racking up the wins in practice while facing Ladybug. But Jackson said Reneazia never seemed deterred.
“When you have that hunger and that confidence to say, ‘Hey, I might get beat but I’m going to get beat running fast,’ then you have a good chance of improving,” Jackson said.
The sweat equity also helped prove her worth to the older athletes, and Glenn said she wasted little time in letting Reneazia know what was in store for her.
“She came out of nowhere!” said Glenn. “Ever since last year I’ve been telling her, ‘You’re the next leader when ’Bug and I leave.’”
Added Ladybug: “Her mind-set is already like that – she’s a go-getter, she’s a leader. When we leave, I know the team is going to look to her because she kind of reminds me of myself when I was that age.
“We have a lot of similarities, and I like that about her. She’s a team player, and she just goes out there and works hard.”
It’s not as if Reneazia will be all alone next season, however, as the Redhawks should return a strong nucleus of talent with underclassmen such as Kendall Cox, Julice Crowder, Shikima Gainey, Simone Gwehi and Zasha Barrett.
“(Reneazia’s) going to have her crew,” said Jackson. “That foundation has been laid. She does summer track to stay focused. If you have that work ethic and desire, she’s going to be all right.
“She’s going to have to motivate herself more (now that Glenn and Ladybug are gone). But the foundation is there. She’ll be good.”
Reneazia said she realizes the responsibilities she’s getting ready to shoulder.
“I love track, but I’m kind of a quiet person, and I’m not used to being in charge of other people and leading and stuff,” said Reneazia, who added that she has begun recruiting other athletes around campus to join the track team next school year.
“I know with (Ladybug and Glenn) leaving, I’m going to have to step up next year,” Reneazia said. “(This year’s success) makes me want to work harder. Without (Ladybug and Glenn) and those points, hopefully other people from the team will step up and we can do it again.”
After all, for Reneazia, this year was the beginning of a new era.