He’s thrown the shot put a shade under 40 feet, the discus just a tad past 107 feet.

And as strong as Nile C. Kinnick junior Cliff Collins has shown, he’s also shown a propensity for running, clocking the 800 meters close to the 2-minute mark.

He’s only been at Yokosuka Naval Base since late January, having transferred from Chesapeake, Va. But in that short span, Collins has become one of the top athletes in the Kinnick track program.

“Cliff is a rare breed. He could easily have the biggest ego out there. But he’s probably the most humble guy you could talk to,” said Al Garrido, in his second year as Kinnick coach.

“His thirst and hunger for knowledge, learning new things, it’s incredible,” said Garrido. “Always asking questions, always wanting to be better. He could win every time and still want to throw farther and run faster.”

Collins, 17, came to Kinnick from Western Branch High in Chesapeake, where he ran track and cross country, what he calls “honest sports.”

“You have to be the one to push yourself,” Collins said of individual disciplines. “In football and wrestling, somebody is putting the pain on you. In track, you’re doing it yourself. You have to mentally psyche yourself and be physically ready to do it.”

He said he plans to play football and wrestle at Kinnick.

Back in Virginia, Collins consistently ran 800s in the low 2:10s, and maxed out at 112 feet in the discus.

“Coach says I’m capable of going over 130 feet. I hope that’s true,” he said. “I think I can run (the 800 meters in) 2:05, with the proper training and me really trying.”

While Collins has risen as a key individual star, he’s also helped light a fire under the Red Devils as a team. About half the team’s 35 members are seniors, the other half underclassmen primed to comprise the team’s future:

Among the youngsters are sophomore Tyree Hunt, who’s run the 100 meters in 11.03 and the 200 in 23.24. Freshman Gee Mi Jorde is the reigning Far East Cross Country girls champion. Sophomore Madelyn Sneed has proven able as a sprinter (13.21 in 100 meters) and hurdler (16.24 in 100 low).

Then there are veterans, such as Akki Brathwaite, who’s lost just once this season in the discus and tossed the shot 7.53 meters last Saturday at Zama American.

Garrido, a consummate “glass is half full” coach, is far better known for his triumphs on the volleyball court.

He won a Girls Class A title in 2000 and a Class AA crown in 2002 with Southern on Guam, then took a physical education teaching job at Kinnick. Last fall, he led the Red Devils to a 9-6 regular-season mark, their best in 10 years.

“Coaching these athletes, we have a big responsibility about letting them know there’s going to be challenges in life, and a lot will reflect on how they do in sports,” Garrido said. “You never want them to fail, be it taking first place or setting a personal record.”

Prior to coming to Kinnick, the lifelong resident of Dededo, Guam, coached middle school teams in Guam’s public school system.

Garrido is assisted by Matt Biggs, a civilian volunteer and a former college and high school thrower, and Rip Wagner, who coached for 17 years in DODDS-Europe and specializes in distance running.

“For the past six years, Kinnick has had some of the best throwers in the league and have really been able to put a lot of points in this area,” Zama American coach Mitch Moellendick said of athletes such as Joel Pettigrew, Brandon Brown, Brathwaite and now Collins.

Collins has “speed to match his strength,” Moellendick said. “They (Red Devils) will also score points in the hurdles races this season.”

“We have many athletes who can finish first and take a lot of points,” Garrido said of the strength of the team. “Each are capable of finishing first in many events.”

Given the rise of so many good athletes, half for the here and now, half for now and the future, Garrido and his charges feel it’s only a matter of time before other teams are doing the looking up at Kinnick.

“That would be nice, definitely something to look forward to,” Garrido said.

To do that well, it will take a combined effort, everybody rising to their potential at the same time, Collins said.

“The signs are there,” he said. “As long as the people here stick with it, they can be excellent track and field athletes. It depends on how badly everybody wants it. We can only go so far as each athlete wants to go.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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