Myles Collins played basketball and football for most of his life, and was a swimmer for several years. Running competitively, though? That wasn’t on his radar until he got to high school.

The Archer senior discovered that talent through a middle school club, along with a nudge from his future high school coach.

“I always ran a good mile in the 5 minutes,” Collins said. “I would go to Tiger Club, they had a thing at McConnell (Middle), Tiger Trackers. I would go to that in the morning before school. I enjoyed that just because I had friends there. I never said, ‘I want to go run.’”

Archer coach John McCartney gets updates from the middle school when youngsters show potential in running, and he heard of Collins quickly.

“(Collins) wants to run 5 minutes today (in the mile),” McCartney said of his conversation with the middle school coaches back then. “I said, ‘No way.’ He ran 5:20. Usually when (a middle-schooler) runs 5:35, I think they’ll be pretty good. The last one he ran (in middle school) was 5:11. … I said, ‘I’ve got to talk to this kid.’ He told me, ‘I’ve got to play basketball, but I’d like to try (running).’”

Collins stuck with basketball his first two years at Archer, but his new sport steadily took over. He experienced great improvements in both cross country and track, showing him that running could be his future.

“At first, I was like, ‘Nah, coach, I’m a basketball player,’” Collins said. “I didn’t see myself as a runner. Then some of the guys came and talked to me about it and said it was a good program. The teammates you make, that was one of the main things that kept me in running, the teammates. The (first) conversation (with McCartney) was a short one. I really liked what he was saying, so I stuck it out and started running and eventually really liked it.”

McCartney sold the rising freshman on how running would help him on the basketball court.

“I just never really saw myself as a runner,” said Collins, now a top college prospect in the sport. “I was a basketball player and I just ran the mile really well. Coach McCartney came and talked to me about running and how that could be a new outlet for me. I liked what he was saying and I guess I became a natural runner.”

Collins’ basketball is now limited to pickup games with friends — outside of running season, of course. He is Gwinnett’s top returning distance runner in cross country, trailing only three-time Daily Post runner of the year Chase Condra, who graduated from Peachtree Ridge this past spring.

The Archer standout is poised for an even better cross country season if his results in track are any indication. He had the best spring of any Gwinnett distance runner, Condra included, with a state runner-up finish in the 3,200-meter run and a third-place finish in the 1,600.

His yearly improvements, and his relative newness to the sport, are what the college coaches like about Collins.

“The big thing is his progression over the years,” McCartney said. “You see him go 4:37 (in the mile) freshman year. Last year, he was 4:22. This year it’s 4:13. There’s hardly a better stereotypical progression anyone would want to see. The gap between those times indicated he may go 4:06, 4:08 this year. Will he do it? We’ll see.”

Up first is cross country, though.

A couple of summer setbacks cut into Collins’ preparation for his senior season, so McCartney plans to bring him along slowly, using the early season for training. Collins’ 5K best is 15:28, and challenging that mark likely will come later in the year. He wants to qualify for the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships as one of the top 10 finishers at the South Regional, where he was 19th last year. He was 40th at the midway point at the South Regional, but surged to 19th and was the second-best finisher from Georgia.

His immediate goal is a high school state championship — “I’m going to help him reach it if I can,” McCartney said — as well as improving on his cross country finishes from his junior season — fifth at state, second at area and third at county. He hopes Archer can challenge for a team state title, too, and an individual state title would help that cause.

“(A state) is my only mission right now,” Collins said. “I would be ecstatic if I won one of those. I really want to win and do something for Archer. We have this thing in the gym with all the faces for all-state. I want to get up there. That’s the way I’ve got to get up there, with winning a championship.”

There is one other matter on the agenda — picking a college. His new sport has opened up options, but so have his academics. He has a 3.976 GPA with only one high school B, an 88 in Spanish III.

He wants to major in electrical engineering with a minor in industrial engineering, and he said Georgia Tech, the U.S. Military Academy, Alabama and Georgia are early options under consideration.

His coach is eager to see what he accomplishes in and out of running, both this season and beyond.

“Myles is the captain, and he wants the team to excel,” McCartney said. “He’s very encouraging to all the boys with subtle fist pumps without any hoopla. Myles excels in the classroom and represents Archer in a school leadership capacity. Myles will be a great leader in whichever direction he chooses to go. His college options grow almost weekly.”

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