“It’s just God-given talent,” said Monroe track and field star Reneazia Collins of her success on the track. And perhaps she’s right, as the recent high school graduate just capped off her senior season by winning all four of her individual events at the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2A state meet, helping the Redhawk team to their third consecutive state championship.
“I work hard and I practice hard, but honestly I think it’s just a God-given gift.”
Collins has certainly been a gift to Nichole Jackson’s acclaimed track and field program, as she’s been a headliner for the Redhawks since her freshman year when she grabbed her first two state titles in the 4×200 relay and 4×400 relay. As a sophomore, she won her first individual titles in the 400-meter dash (57.41 seconds) and the 100 hurdles (15.48) while winning another title in the 4×200 relay.
But it was last season when she proved just how talented she is. Collins won all of her events at the state meet – the 200 (25.67), 400 (59.70), 100 hurdles (16.19) and the 4×200 relay. People in the track and field world across the state knew her name and Division-I colleges started chomping at the bit to recruit the Redhawk star.
Monroe moved up to Class 2A this year and there were speculations as to whether or not Monroe girls track would continue their dominating performances and if Collins could perform at the next level.
Those hesitations were squashed on the N.C. A&T track on May 10 at the NCHSAA Class 2A state championships. Collins won gold in all of her events for the second year in a row, winning the 100 (12.42), 200 (25.48), 400 (56.39) and the 4×200 relay (1:41.65). The Redhawks claimed their third state title behind Collins’ effort, besting second-place Carrboro by 25 points.
“It was unbelievable,” Collins said. “Moving up to 2A, everyone thought that because the competition was bigger we wouldn’t be able to win again. They said, ‘It’s nothing like 1A, you can’t do it.’ But we did and it felt great to not only win as a team but to win all four of my events again.”
Collins was unquestionably voted the meet’s MVP and graduated high school last week with 16 individual titles and five relay titles to her name. She’ll also leave Monroe as the 2014 Union County Weekly Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
The sweet ending to her high school career was perhaps even sweeter given the circumstances of her senior season. Collins came down with a severe calf sprain just before the Queen City Relays on March 22 that left her sidelined through several weeks in the middle of the season. The injury was like déjà vu, as Collins missed the Queen City Relays last season because of an ankle injury that placed her in a boot for several weeks.
This time Collins couldn’t run or train and was left to workout on a bike – the only form of exercise that wouldn’t further her injury.
“I was running and my calf muscle just gave out on me,” she said. “I had to stay out for three weeks and all I could do was ride a bike. Last year my ankle kept me out when I was in a boot, so it hasn’t been easy. I started thinking, ‘Here we go again. What if I miss the rest of the season? What if I can’t run again?’”
But luck was in her favor as Collins recovered and was back ready to perform at the Rocky River Conference championships, where she effortlessly won the 100, 200, 400 and 4×200 as if she’d never been injured. And she accepted nothing less than first place finishes for the rest of the season.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” she said. “As a freshman, I remember being nervous and following in the footsteps of the older girls like (Janieya Collins). As I grew I thought, ‘I’m going to keep up with her.’ That started to change into, ‘I’m going to beat her.’ Then she left and I realized I had to be the leader now. As a freshman I was a follower but then I became a leader.”
Along with Collins, the Class of 2014 girls track and field team will leave Monroe with three out of four state titles to their name. Runners like Julice Crowder, Simone Gwehi and Asha Jordan have helped Collins put the Redhawk team on the competitive map and Collins said that’s made all the difference.
“I’m most proud of my entire 2014 class,” Collins said. “A lot of us came in as freshmen and the girls team wasn’t known for winning anything. A few people would win individual events but there wasn’t a team effort, even in relays. But my class came in and made a name for ourselves and for Monroe track. I’m proud of all my 2014 ladies.”
And though her time as a Redhawks is over, Collins acclaimed track and field career is only beginning. She’ll suit up with N.C. A&T in the fall and said she also hopes to start training for different events, like a pentathlon or triathlon.
“I’m nervous, but I’m looking forward to college and trying something new,” she said. “I’m excited that my family will get to see me on TV but I’ll definitely miss being here at Monroe and running with my girls. My track team was like my family and it’s been an amazing journey here.”