Sept. 17, 2010
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. – Andrew Colley has what he calls a “temperamental toe.” When it’s not acting up, the redshirt freshman is one of the fastest distance runners in the country. When it is acting up, he’s in a lot of pain and is still one of the fastest distance runners in the country.
The native of Williamsburg, Va., makes his debut for the NC State men’s cross country team later today in the Wolfpack Invitational cross country meet at Cary’s Wake Med Soccer Stadium, but he’s already made a big impact even though he has yet to compete for the school.
Last February, he went to the U.S. Junior National Cross Country meet in Spokane, Wash., where he finished third and earned a spot on the U.S. team that competed in the 2010 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, in March.
He finished 42nd there, second among the American runners.
“That was big for Andrew and big for the program,” said veteran cross country coach Rollie Geiger said. “I think any time as an athlete, you put a USA uniform on, it’s unique. It’s something a lot of people don’t experience.”
Colley returned to NC State, where he again redshirted during the indoor and outdoor seasons, competing in a few meets as an unaffiliated runner while preparing for the national and international cross country meets. But his training times were phenomenal.
“He ran a 14:07 in the 5,000 meters during the spring,” Geiger said. “There has been no one in this program ever to run 5,000 meters that fast as a true freshman. If you look at his body of work, between making the World Cross Country Championships and running the fastest freshman 5K in the history of the program, he’s pretty good.”
Colley is certainly entering the season with great confidence, based on his junior national team success. That’s a huge difference from a disappointing 2009, when he missed most of his senior season of high school track and most of his freshman cross country season with toe problems.
“Last year was a big learning experience, with being injured in the fall,” Colley said. “I had to learn how to be honest with myself, when to back off. I was a little hurt, and I tried to tell myself I wasn’t. I ended up being out until mid-December. It was really frustrating.
“When I was able to get some good training in during the winter, and went to junior cross country championships. The rest of the year was pretty good.”
But the three-time Virginia state high school champion is eager to get back on the cross country course, where he has been most successful as a runner.
“I think a lot of people don’t know what to expect from me, because I haven’t been able to compete for a while,” Colley said. “My confidence right now is right back to where it was during my senior cross country season. When I went to the junior cross country championship, I was able to run at the front of the pack, which is what I like to do.
“I'm ready for bigger competitions.”
He’s also eager to compete with sophomore Ryan Hill, who won All-America honors in both cross country and track and field last year and helped the Wolfpack win its 11th ACC men’s cross country title in the last 15 years. Geiger considers the two runners to be “athletic clones” because they are so similar in abilities and performances.
The two bonded while traveling with the track and field team in the spring and enjoy competing against each other during training runs.
“Neither one likes to lose,” Geiger said. “They have great respect for each other, but neither one likes to lose”
The only difference is Colley’s trademark hair, which he keeps long and flowing, while Hill’s is close cropped.
“Sometimes I’ll glance during a workout and I’ll see someone coming back and I’ll say, ‘Man, she’s running fast,’ and it’s Andrew,” Geiger said. “I told him, ‘As long as you’re running fast, I’m good with it.’”
The coach knows that either Hill or Colley could be the NC State’s 11th ACC individual men’s cross country champion at some point in their careers. Along with an influx of newcomers, the Wolfpack will certainly challenge for another team title and could be one of the best teams in the nation.
Colley just hopes that the Wolfpack, which is ranked 11th in the preseason by NTFCCCA, can make a splash nationally.
“I think that we're underrated and are going to surprise a lot of people,” Colley said. “We’ll definitely be a force to reckon with.”
You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.