– LeShon Collins, Team Perfect Method Sprinter

One year ago I didn’t know if I was going to continue to run track after I graduated college.

By the time I got to college I was ranked top 5 in the nation for indoors. I ran the 60 in 6.74 and the 200 in 21.37 as a senior in high school.

As a freshman I ran 6.67 and 21.30 in the 200 indoor.  In the 100, I ran 10.3. I didn’t change much, just a couple things here and there, because I was already fast.

My ego was “I can beat and I don’t want to be beaten by anybody on the team. So, that’s how I came in. As a freshman, I just focused on trying to win, to beat all the older guys. I wanted to beat one specific guy and when I did, I said, “This is my team now.  I’m the new guy to beat.”  I was pretty arrogant and cocky, because that’s how I wanted to be on the track.  That’s how I portrayed myself.

It really hit me once I got beat for the first time in college.  I didn’t really bounce back the way I should have. I went to high school in Delaware and I was the fastest kid all 4 years.  I never learned how to bounce back.  So I said, “I can’t really be like this anymore because I don’t know how to take a loss.”  I was always saying, “I don’t want to lose… I can’t lose. I will not lose.”  So when I lost for the first time, it took me to another place.  I had to regroup.  I talked with my Coach a lot and that’s how we established our relationship. He was from Philly, too.

I remember talking to Carl Lewis on the phone one time in high school and I told him to come across the bridge to come see me run.  He said he would but he never did.  I still talk about that with him…I wish he’d come to see me run that day.  But he ended up seeing me run at The Penn Relays my senior year and signed my headband.  He told me he’d seen the way I ran and he gave me a few pointers.  By that time I was already coming to Houston, but I’d finally got to meet him and we talked about me running the relay for Houston. He said, “I can’t wait to get you to Houston…get you ready to run.”

It wasn’t about technique.  It was about what you’re going to do.  He wanted to put me on the relay team so we could do big things, like the Olympics.  And honestly, that’s the way he talks to the incoming freshmen to this day.

My sophomore year I came back. And that’s when I really started to see that if I changed the little things, bigger things would happen for bigger results. I ran a 6.60 in the 60 my sophomore year and I was Top 10 that year.  I went to Indoor Nationals and got 9th.  That year I got a chance to race some pros and I beat them, but that particular race was when I really got to witness myself run the correct way.  And that race was my best race… my perfect race.  Ever since then I’ve been trying to get back to what I did in that race.  I think that’s what messed me up my junior year, trying to repeat it! Crazy part about that race was that I was actually losing for the majority of it, but then (accidentally) I just got up and started running.  I caught up and passed everyone.  Afterward, one of the coaches here showed me that that’s what I needed to do to run better.  I saw the arm motion, leg recovery, foot placement, the whole nine.  Those were the things that I did in that race…that I needed to do every race.

But it didn’t really click then like it does now.  I was young and selfish, and I didn’t really care too much as long as I was running fast.  As races went on, I ran 6.63, 6.64, consistently, but I couldn’t get back to a 6.60 race. I won Conference that year in the 60 and the 200 indoor.  I won Conference in the 100 and I got 2nd in the 200 outdoors with 21.1.  I was getting better in my 200 that year.

My junior year is when Carl was around more.  He was working with a few of the sprinters and jumpers and he’d give me tips every now and then.  Honestly, I actually think this is when we clicked.  We had our ups and downs that season where I didn’t talk to him for several weeks, but that’s what made us become closer.  This was the year the trust process began.  He told me it takes a year to get it right, under his workouts, with this process.  And I decided to do it. But my junior year was my worst year in track for college.  I didn’t run well.  I didn’t make the Indoors 60 that year.  I made the Outdoor 4 x 100 but we didn’t make the final.  So that year was basically my transition year.  I said, “OK, new system, new rules, new coach.  I gotta get used to it.”

But I was playing catch up.

So, senior year comes around and I had the beginning of the year talk with Carl.  By this time he’s the men’s coach for sprints and jumps. I told him, “I’m ready to give in. I’m ready to listen and be coachable” and from then on my year really took off.  I got back to my 6.6’s consistently and ran the 200 in 21.02 (PR) Indoor. I went to Nationals and got 11th with a 6.65. But something happened at Indoors that made everything clicked for me.  After the race, I went over to Carl and he said, “Hey, if you’d have done ‘this’ you would have been in the final.” That took me back to that 6.60 race my sophomore year at the home meet, where if I would’ve stayed tall, like in that race, I would have run faster and made that final. I got out well and I was winning the race. But I was leaning and looking for the line vs staying tall and up and running my own race.  And that’s why I got caught.

So that particular indoor race is when I reevaluated everything. That’s when I said, “OK, I can do this now. I have 6 months left and either it’s “This is my last season running track” or “make something out of this and see where it takes me.”  That’s when the trust process began…

After Indoors, I was told to lose weight. I lost the 7-8 lbs that Carl wanted me to lose. That’s when Outdoor season started and I began to change my form and run the way they wanted me to.  I opened up 10.3 at Rice, then went to Texas Relays and dropped to 10.21 which was a new PR for me.  We came back after Texas relays and went to Mt. Sac and I ran 10.29 in that meet.  We went to Baylor and I ran my first “20.” race.  I ran 20.77.  At the 100 mark, I put my chin down and I started pumping and that’s what propelled me to the finish line.  I was working on that for about a couple months until I finally did it.  After that I ran directly to Carl and I said, “Man, this is really happening.” He said, “Yes, you’re finally trusting the process.”  And I was good with that.

I changed my eating habits, started eating better.  I started practicing by myself to try to get more familiar with everything.  We would meet at separate times, but I’d do 200s with some of the other post-collegiate guys, I did blocks by myself to get that individual work, and even did breakdowns by myself.

At that point I told Carl I’d do whatever I need to do and I would listen.  I’ve been in the Penn Relays 100 meter final every year, but last year I finally won.  It was cold out there, and I ran 10.4, but everything was clicking.   I was up tall and doing what I need to do.  Then Conference came along.  And that’s when everything came together and I ran 10.15 in the 100 and in the 200 20.43.  And that’s what got me to Olympic Trials.

I had more races down. I executed properly every single race. I did what was asked: 90 degree arms, legs…I was running beautifully! And actually it was kind of easy.  Not because the races were easy but because of the way I ran.  I was finally running relaxed.

I don’t know why but every Conference meet I always ran well.  Maybe because my Mom was there.  I guess I can just really get into my groove.  At Regionals I ran 20.56 and I made my 1st Individual in Outdoor Nationals in the 200…and we got into the 4 x 100 final last year.

So it really came together my senior year.

At Regionals, I continued the hot streak and ran 20.56 to make it out and into Nationals in my FIRST individual event at Outdoor Nationals.  At Nationals, in the 200 trials I didn’t make it back to the finals but I still ran a 20.9.  I was staying consistent under 21 and I had a new baseline.  And then we made the 4x 100 final.  In prelims we ran 38.7 and then ran 38.44 in the final, got second and broke the school record.

The trust I’ve developed in Carl Lewis and The Perfect Method has made me think I can compete on the national and world stage.  Before, I didn’t think I could do it but now I do.  So I’m training hard and doing the work.

I’m going in-depth right now in the blocks.  I need to get up and out by pushing.  It’s hard because in high school I was taught to stay down and push.  Now, I’m trying to get up and push.  And I’m working on my arms, coming out especially on that first step because that gets everything going.  I’m learning to be patient with my start.  A good push is in those first three steps.  Carl instills that in my head every block day – about pushing and staying patient.

And I’m working on trying to stay focused.  I have to keep distractions from letting me run my own race.  I false started the other day because I let myself get distracted.  Now I’m training in noisy situations, with people in the lanes next to me so I can get better at staying focused on the task and in my own head.  I have to get this right.  People flinch and I try not to notice or react to it as well.  False starts are unacceptable over here.

So, yes, I trust him and I trust the process now.  And I’m in a different position.  I’m focusing on making myself a better athlete and trying to go pro.  I want to make some good money in this sport and for the first time, I believe I can do this.  I’m focusing on staying healthy and doing what it takes so I can keep doing what I love to do!