(Photo By Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Caitlin Collier is looking for a Pan American Junior Championship on Saturday in Peru.
But will it be an easy task?
If her junior season is of any indication, the rising Bolles School senior has breezed through the competition, whether it's been at the high school level, against professionals at the Nike Festival of Miles, or against the best U20 talent in the country at USA Juniors.
Collier hasn't lost an 800m final in seven attempts. Her personal best of 2:03.32 from the Festival of Miles ranks second in the country, behind only Sammy Watson of New York who clocked a time of 2:00.65 in international competition. After finishing second in her heat at Pan American Juniors on Friday to qualify for the finals, she is one race away from an undefeated season and her first international gold medal.
"By the time we got to USA's last year, she was pretty tired," said Bolles coach Dan Dearing. "This year we shifted her whole season back three weeks to try and help with that. Essentially shortening her season and starting her much later than everyone else."
But the move has paid off for Collier. The high school-aged runner has fought off both the mental and physical fatigue suffered last season, too. Dearing adds that Collier has matured as an athlete and has a great attitude towards training.
It's a training plan that isn't done on a weekly basis, but rather twelve day training cycles.
"We got out of our general prep phase in February," Dearing explained. "After USA's we had a harder twelve day cycle then a really light twelve day cycle that takes her up to race week. She did the time trial on Sunday morning instead of Monday since she was traveling and looked great."
Collier came through the 400 around 57 and held on through the 600. The showing was a tell tale sign she'd be ready to run against the best from North, Central, and South America at the Pan Am Junior Championships.
"Our game plan is simple," he said. "Since we don't know anything about the other people competing we just want to get through the semifinals and not worry about how fast that is. Then we are going to run the finals to win."
Is she one of the best distance runners ever to come out of Florida? Collier says she is looking forward to proving it, along with gaining international experience.
"I'm looking forward to meeting our country's most talented young athletes," she noted. "Everyone here has worked so hard and it's so cool to be surrounded by competitors from various places and such unique backgrounds."
She adds that her time in Trujillo is even more special wearing the Team USA jersey and it would mean a lot to end her junior year on a high note.
"Competing with a Team USA jersey will be biggest honor of my athletic career," she said. "I cannot begin to describe the excitement that I have thus far experienced throughout my trip. It would me a lot to win this race and I'd be very happy with a PR."