CHARLESTON – Take all of the miles of training and competition that Seneca’s Christopher Collet has logged over the previous three seasons, add in the disappointment and frustration of finishing lower than seeded and/or missing finals entirely, leaving what some feel was tremendous potential going untapped, and condense it all down into one moment and a one relatively short distance.
What you’ll come up with is the final 200 meters of Saturday’s Class 1A 1600-meter run final.
With the 3200-meter run championship already in hand, Collet had the chance to do something great - the rare “distance triple” of the state cross country title, plus wins in the two longest races on the track - and would not be denied. Not even when he found himself in a little trouble with just 300 meters to go when he fell a long stride behind Athens’ Noah McIntyre and Robinson’s Negus Board.
But with 200 meters remaining, Collet surprisingly for a hot and humid day found another gear and burst past them into the lead, then held them off for his second state championship and the renowned triple, crossing the finish line with his right arm defiantly raised showing the last three fingers of his hand.
His split for the last of four laps was an amazing 57.91 seconds - just nine seconds off the winning time in the 1A 400-meter dash - to end with a time of 4 minutes, 24.71 seconds, three strides faster than runnerup McIntyre (4:26.06) and Bogard (4:26.12).
Collet earlier in the day won the 3200 race in 9:36.99 and still had enough for his incredible mile.
“This year makes up for everything that I’ve been through in my career, without a doubt," said Collet, who medaled at state track last year for the first time with a seventh in the 3200. "The most frustrating thing to me was not earning any medals, no track medals until last year. It was really disheartening and put a chip on my shoulder. I knew that I could run faster and that I was underperforming at state races, so I did everything I could to change that.
“Since my sophomore year, when I saw one of my friends and mentors (3A Minooka’s Soren Knudsen) take the triple criown, I felt that could be me. It was my goal since then and I’ve worked hard and taken things seriously, swimming and running every day, and now it happened for me.”
Collet had a difficult choice to make in the fast heat of the 3200 run because he knew there was a solid time of 9:48.29 by Bogard in the first and slower heat. He adjusted his pace as best he could and finished with a clocking of 9:36.99
“Going into the two mile, it was a little bit of a mind game,” Collet said. “There was a really fast time out of the first heat. I knew there was a time to beat, but there were no splits because the clock wasn’t up, so I was running a little bit scared trying to put forth enough effort to beat that time and still win my heat, and conserve as much energy as I could for the mile. I ran what I needed to to win, nothing special, nothing crazy.”
In the 1600, Collet got the sit-and-kick race from the competition he’d hoped for, and battled McIntyre, Bogard and Bismark-Henning’s Gabe Martinez for the top spots throughout. He fell a long stride out of first in the final lap, but managed to put on a kick for the ages.
“I was a little bit concerned with 200 to go, but I found something,” said Collet. “It was all adrenaline. Going through the first 1200, the pace was a little bit slack and I knew Noah was waiting just to take me, so I matched his move – perfectly, in my opinion – and got the win. I helped massively to save some energy in the 3200.”
Teammate Wyatt Baldauf was one of Collet’s victims in the 3200, the senior finishing in 29th place with a time of 10:58.85.
“I guess I picked a bad time to have my worst race of the year,” Baldauf said. “The heat just took a lot out of me today and I just didn’t have it. But it’s great to end my career down here at state and I’m glad Christopher did so well. He’s amazing.”
With the first title since the Irish’s Tommy Lovett took the 300 hurdles crown in 2014, Collet alone notched 20 points to put Seneca tied with Argenta-Oreana and Colfax Ridgeview for ninth place as a team in Class 1A.
“Christopher is just a different runner this year,” said Seneca coach Terry Maxwell. “Thinking back to where he was last year at this time, medaling (seventh) in the 3200 and missing out on the 1600 and now finishing first in both, it’s a credit to him and how hard he’s worked. Even since his freshman year, he’s always had talent, but … He’s been more focused and more determined this year. He knows how to plan a race and be mentally tough enough to execute it.”