Meridian cross country coach Mike Holz said he really focused on making sure he got his girls' team running the correct pace during a Northwest Conference meet on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at Peace Arch Park.
"I was all over the course, making sure girls were running the right pace, and I ended up being pretty far away from the boys before the start of their race," Holz said. "I was late getting to the start line, so I was kind of worried. I got there and I saw Collin (Magnusson, a junior captain on the team) leading them in strides and warm-ups. It was like I didn't even have to worry about what the guys were doing. Here's the team captain taking control and getting everyone warmed up and ready to go. It was very comforting to know as a coach."
Now in his second year as a captain for the Trojans, Magnusson has stepped forward to be the leader that every coach wishes they have so they can count on them almost like an assistant coach.
"It's a great experience," Magnusson said. "Last year, I wasn't asked to do all that much. ... There were three captains, so I didn't get as much experience. This year they selected me and one captain for the girls' team, so I had to take on an added role as a leader. You have to do those sorts of things if you want your team to be organized and run a good race. I knew we needed to get warmed up and get our strides in, so I just took over and got it done."
Magnusson, who's also in the leadership class at Meridian High, said he believes the key to being a good leader is being organized and knowing what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.
And while he's done a good job in showing an ability to do that leading the team, he's also shown and affinity for doing what needs to be done individually.
"The time and effort he's put into running, he's really seeing the benefits out of that, for sure," Holz said. "I can't remember a day he's missed other than being sick. He's consistently working out, and it's really paying off for him."
Magnusson entered Saturday, Sept. 28, with the Northwest Conference's fourth-fastest 5,000-meter time so far this year (16 minutes, 59 seconds) behind only Squalicum senior Chris Fredlund, Burlington-Edison junior Wyatt Mullen and Anacortes sophomore Dylan Holland.
Magnusson won two out of the three NWC meets he's run and finished third in the other. He also placed fifth in the junior boys' race at the Sept. 14 Sehome Invitational.
"Physically, he's stronger this year," Holz said. "He looks stronger in workouts, and he's got great closing speed. ... He can run different races. He can pace, or he can go out strong. He's a guy that adapts very well. He's best at hitting a pace and closing strong, but if he needs to start strong, he has the ability to do that, too."
Part of the reason for Magnusson's success, Holz said, is his dedication to the sport.
It didn't take Magnusson long to discover what type of dedication running cross country required.
As a freshman, he was considering going out for football, until Holz talked him into coming out, Magnusson said.
After the season, he tried out and made the Meridian basketball team, but decided to give it up so that he could continue focusing on running. Nearly the same thing happened during the spring, when he decided to forgo playing baseball to run track.
"I think I had been playing basketball since I was in fourth grade," Magnusson said. "Giving it up wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. ... I think I just realized that I could have a future in running, and that put me in a spot where I decided what I needed to do to be the best I could in this sport. It was a little weird going in and just training for cross country and track and not playing basketball, but I kept telling myself something good would come out of it."
Something good definitely came out of it his sophomore year, as Magnusson finished 16th at the Northwest Conference Championships with a personal-best time of 16:26.32, 10th at the Class 1A tri-district meet and 23rd at the 1A State Championships.
Despite that strong showing and the Trojans' seventh-place finish overall, Magnusson said he felt neither he nor the team had their best performances, and that's something he'd like to change this year.
"This year, I want to make sure we go into it just like we would any other race," Magnusson said. "Last year at state, we didn't do as well as we could have. Everyone's time was off. We still had a good year, but we didn't feel we did as good at state as we were capable. This year we want to finish strong."
With somebody like Magnusson leading the way, there's no reason they can't.
"He's earned that leadership role," Holz said. "With him being so dedicated to this sport and the consistency he's shown, he's earned it."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.