By Lea Williams, Utah State Athletic Media Relations
LOGAN, Utah – Utah State senior track & field athlete Colby Wilson has led the Aggie distance runners in an eventful and exciting four-year career.
Oddly enough, his running career began with a simple deal he made with his mother, DeAnn Wilson. While approaching his senior year at Preston (Idaho) High School, Wilson had no idea how much the agreement he made with his mother would affect his future.
“The distance coaches had been trying to get me on the cross country team for a while, and my mom made a deal with me. She said that as long as I was running I didn’t have to do chores, so that got me to try out,” said Wilson.
Mothers know best, and Wilson burst onto the scene as one of Idaho’s top prep distance runners shortly after joining the Indians’ cross country team.
“I went to the first home meet right there in Preston and I had a lot of success,” said Wilson. “The rest is history. People gravitate to what they’re good at and at that point I noticed that I had a good thing going.”
The high school senior with bright red hair and no significant distance training later finished runner-up at the 2008 Idaho State Cross Country Championships.
“Placing second at state really opened my eyes to what I could do,” he said. “Previously, I had only done small-town races and it’s often easy to find success on those small stages, but finishing second at state opened my eyes to a future in this sport.”
Wilson carried his newly-found talent over to the 2009 track & field season by winning the state title in the 3,200m. Additionally, Wilson finished runner-up in the 5,000m and third in the 1,600m at state.
Although Wilson accomplished an amazing feat and proved to be one of the best distance runners in the state of Idaho that season, his agreement with his mom had become a thirst for more opportunities based off his father’s (Brent Wilson) sacrifice.
“It all starts with my father,” said Wilson. “He didn’t have a ton of opportunities as a young man, so he just gave me every opportunity that he possibly could. That, along with the work ethic he instilled in me, ultimately got me to Utah State.”
After serving an LDS Church Mission in Des Moines, Iowa, from 2010-2012, Wilson joined the Aggie harriers for the 2013 cross country season as a freshman.
Despite his high school success, Wilson once again felt like an underdeveloped distance runner on a big stage. The late USU distance coach Steve Reeder thrived on recognizing raw talent like Wilson’s, crafting him into a confident collegiate athlete.
Reeder, who was often found riding his bicycle behind Utah State athletes at practice, was credited among Wilson’s list of role models who greatly impacted his life.
“I was a super-underdeveloped runner when I came to Utah State, and coach Reeder took me under his wing, showing me what it was all about. He took it easy on me for a minute until I was fully dipped into this experience,” said Wilson.
As a freshman, Wilson continued his rapid development, claiming the co-Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors for being the top freshman finisher at the 2013 Mountain West Cross Country Championships. Overall, he finished 22nd with a time of 25:24.30 in his first conference championship competition.
“My teammates also helped me understand what it takes to be a teammate,” said Wilson. “I didn’t know what it took to be a collegiate athlete, so when I was a freshman and sophomore I relied heavily on teammates to show me what it was all about. Eric Shellhorn and Tom Derr were some of those older teammates that really taught me a lot.”
As mentioned before, being a good teammate is something that Wilson has acquired from a variety of mentors and he hopes to mentor his younger teammates just like he was mentored.
“I want to always be somebody my teammates can rely on or turn to when they need help,” said Wilson. “This experience is less about what happens on the track and more about the kind of people the program is building.”
It appears the torch has been passed, as current freshman Luke Beattie was named the 2016 Mountain West Freshman of the Year in cross country this past season.
One of Wilson's most memorable moments of his career came at the Lehigh-hosted Paul Short Run during the 2016 cross country season.
"The moment I reflect on the most was at the Paul Short Run in Pennsylvania,” said Wilson. “I was running with Dillon Maggard and the beginning of the race was just happy-go lucky. It was up until about the 5K mark when we realized how fast we were actually going. After that point, we really relied on each other and that teamwork pulled us through. When you're in a hole, it's nice to have a teammate right there to get over that hump and get ready for the next one."
In that historic race, Maggard went on to place fifth (23:44), while Wilson captured 15th place (23:59) in a field of more than 330 runners.
Wilson proved his skill on the track, as well, setting the school record in the 3,000m steeplechase as a junior at the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays.
Setting the school record in the steeplechase is just one of the many achievements Wilson has garnered at USU. The battle-tested senior has qualified twice for the First Round of the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 3,000m steeplechase, and also ranks fourth all-time in school history in the indoor 3,000m (3:16.91).
Wilson now sets his gaze on the 2017 Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which will be an opportunity to succeed in front of friends and family, with Utah State hosting that event this week.
In all, teamwork and comradery is what distance running at Utah State is all about for Wilson.
“The group of gentleman that are on this team and the relationships I’ve been able to develop is by far my favorite part of being an Aggie,” added Wilson.
The native of Preston, Idaho, is set to graduate in December with a degree in marketing and plans to stay local for a while, hoping to give back to the community that made him the person he is today. He enjoys all sports and would love to help others find the success he has experienced as an Aggie.
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