As the prep cross country season nears its end, runners are positioning themselves for their best races of their careers.
For Rogers High senior Collin Mayes, this season was about him battling to reach his potential.
Over the weekend, in a torrential downpour, Mayes finished the Westside Classic West Central/Southwest District meet with a time of 18 minutes, 10.2 seconds, good for 45th place in the Class 4A field, more than a minute slower than his time as a junior.
His time was just short of qualifying him for this weekend’s state meet in Pasco. Rogers senior Scott Maxa (16:51.31) and freshman Madison Egan (19:56) are Rogers’ only state meet qualifiers.
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For some runners, races throughout the season are about getting the best of their competition as they take aim at reaching the podium. But for others, this time of year is a personal battle — one where a runner isn’t facing the competition, weather or the course. It’s that inner battle with oneself.
“This point in the season, I just care about improving myself, my own personal bests (PR) more than just winning,” Mayes said. “If I PR, then I had a good race. That’s how I like to see it.”
This season has been Mayes’ best cross country season since he started running with the Rams boys team. From his freshman to junior season, Mayes only finished under the 17 minute mark twice, and both those times came last season.
This year, there has been a significant improvement in his pacing as Mayes has eclipsed that mark five out nine times in the 5K race. He set his best time, 16:30, on Sept. 30 at the Puyallup All-City Meet.
“I feel like I’ve really improved this year … my pacing is better than it’s ever been since running for Rogers, and my times have been better,” Mayes said. “Getting my PR during the All-City meant a lot to me because it was against our top rival teams.”
But Mayes didn’t stop improving there.
Recently at the South Puget Sound/Seamont League crossovers, Mayes finished 20th overall, (16:46.7) good enough for an 8.69-second and three-spot improvement from his junior year.
“Finishing better than I did last year meant a lot to me,” Mayes said. “Especially with it being out at (Fort) Steilacoom.”
Even though he hasn’t hit that time in more than a month, the weather has made the courses more inhospitable for all the runners. It’s been grimy, cold, wet and muddy for everyone.
“I think the rain and the poor weather has made it tougher on me, but everyone is in that same situation. We’re all have to go through the same thing,” Mayes said.
As the weather has turned over every course, Mayes has embraced these little challenges, because in the cross country world, unpredictably is just another piece of the race.
“I like the challenging courses like (Fort) Steilacoom or Emerald Ridge’s course,” Mayes said. “They really push you as a runner, and if you look at it, they made me a better runner because you have to focus on hills as well as everything else.”