EMU cross country runner Collin Longenecker (Harrisonburg, Va./Turner Ashby) took 30 seconds off his 8k PR at the CNU Invitational in Newports News, Va. At this invitational, the Royals beat both ODAC rival Virginia Wesleyan and host Christopher Newport.
As the lone senior on the men’s team, Collin’s leadership has been vital to the culture of the team, and this year’s successes.
“I have always been a lead by example kind of guy,” said Collin. “Typically you will never see me standing in front of a huge mass, commanding their attention. I try my best to make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and I will assist in any way that I can, trusting that they will follow along.”
With a young team at Eastern Mennonite University, this year has been especially fun for Collin as he has been able to help create the new team’s culture.
“I think Coach Bob and I have a similar view on how things should be run and that has made things work very effortlessly,” he said. “By the time this large group of sophomores are seniors, there will be a very set-in-stone way for how this team functions. I am happy to be a part in any way that I can.”
Collin maintains a calm presence that people can trust and look to if they ever have any questions. He tries to make Coach Bob’s job as easy as possible by having the guys where they are supposed to be, at the time they are supposed to be there.
“I have been so impressed with how well people have listened to me,” said Collin. “It makes a meet as relaxing as a meet can be when we are on time.”
While his recent PR was exciting in its own right, it was even more rewarding as Collin has overcome the massive obstacle of an injury, surgery and recovery in order to continue running. Two years ago, a doctor told him that he had a partial tear in his Achilles, and if he wanted to run a lot again then Achilles surgery was the best option, despite the long recovery process.
“He said my heel bone was extra pointy and at some point my Achilles got inflamed and that my bone was shredding my Achilles like a rope on a rock,” Collin explained. “Painful image right there. My body kept trying to grow and heal the tendon down there but my bone kept on its destruction.”
After an extensive recovery, Collin eased back into competitive running.
“I had my surgery January 3, 2018. I was in a boot and knee scooter for two months, no weight, and then gradually worked into walking over the next two months.”
He biked a ton all summer and slowly worked his way back into running.
“It still bothers me a little every once in a while but it is getting better and stronger every week. I would say I am up to like 96% now,” said Collin.
As the EMU senior looks back at his injury and the recovery process, he has learned many valuable life lessons that he will use after his running career is over. Collin has learned how to be patient and trust that things will work out, even when it feels hopeless.
“I think one that many runners can identify with is to always work hard, even when nobody's watching,” he said.
Collin knows what it means to wait your turn for leadership positions on a team, and what it means to find your role each year and really make the best of it.
“I have put so much work into making this season all that it can be.
“I have had my sights set on ODACs and Regionals ever since getting back from the Middle East (cross cultural) in May, so I am hoping for even bigger improvements in these upcoming races where it really counts. I am very excited about the potential that this team has to have a spectacular end to the season,” said Collin.
The Royals are competing in the ODAC Championships hosted by Roanoke College on Saturday, Nov. 2. The race will be held at Green Hill Park in Salem, Va.
-- by Bri Miller, EMU Sports Information Writing Intern