We choose our paths; other times, they choose us. For GU runner Isaiah Atkins, the choice was mutual. Atkins, a sophomore from Hillsboro, IL, is involved in the Papyrus and Greenville Student Government Association as well as the cross country and track teams.
Before coming to Greenville, Atkins knew Coach Brian Patton from his church in Hillsboro. This relationship largely impacted Atkins’ decision to attend GU and join both of the teams. “I started running with the cross country team because Coach Patton asked me to. Patton recruited me and my brother Eli Atkins to come run mid-distance for the track team, and one thing led to another, and I ended up on the cross country team as well,” said Atkins. “While I’m a newcomer to cross country, I have been running track for as long as I could. It was never my top priority – soccer was – but I always did it for the fun of competition and the team atmosphere.”
Although Atkins’ favorite event is the 800m run, he has become fond of the 8K races that the cross country team runs. Coming into a decorated cross country team that has won the conference for the last several years, Atkins knew that helping uphold the team’s legacy would keep up his competitiveness. “I want to continue the streak of championships that was made by the hardworking and incredible guys that were here before me,” he explained. Atkins is also motivated by the notion of using his athletic gifts to the best of his ability. He knows that he is blessed to have this opportunity because not everyone gets the experience of continuing to compete at the collegiate level. He elaborated, “My high school coach always reminded me of how blessed I am just to compete in sports at all when so many kids grow up and don’t have the chance. It is a blessing not only to continue competing, but that I can run at all and kind of quickly. I also run because my mom has been a runner as long as I can remember, and I hope to make her and my dad proud.”
Although Atkins and the team lost their official cross country season due to COVID-19, he and his teammates have still found ways to keep up their race pace. They have trained as if they were in a competition season, and Atkins has seen personal improvement. “I finally broke 29 minutes this year in the 8K, which comes out to a sub-5:48 pace. It’s not incredibly fast, but I am very proud after hardly breaking 31 minutes during my rookie year. I worked hard through quarantine and doubled my weekly mileage, which paid off.”
When not running, Atkins likes to spend some time on the court playing pickup basketball. “It’s fun to compete in things not just involving running,” said Atkins. However, his heart lies on the course and the track. “One thing I always tell myself is ‘Do it because you love it.’ I love the way I feel alive after a run. I love running with my teammates. I just think everyone should be passionate about what they do.”
Atkins and his teammates look forward to competing again in the upcoming spring semester. Until then, Atkins will stay the course and continue his training.