The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • College Track & Field: Getting Back On Track

  • Rollins' resurrection at Texas A&M Commerce concludes with All-American honors in junior year
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  • It wasn't just a resurrection of John David Rollins' future as a person, but his career as a collegiate runner.
    The former Harrisburg High School standout was all set to leave Texas A&M Commerce, the Division II school located northeast of Dallas, before the Lions made a decision that changed Rollins' whole perspective and for the better.
    The former Bulldog says the turning point in his career was Texas A&M Commerce hiring Tom Dibbern as its head coach.
    Rollins, who left Harrisburg after a successful senior campaign in 2011, went to Commerce and struggled to get his game back on track.
    That all changed with Dibbern.
    Dibbern has established himself as one of the top track and field coaches in the country, bringing with him a lengthy resume of success. A two-time National Assistant Coach of the Year, he has coached a US Olympic Trial qualifier, eight USATF national championship competitors, a pair of NCAA Division II National Athletes of the Year (including a national record holder), three individual national champions and over 40 All-Americans.
    "It was the turning point, Rollins said. "He changed my running style and gave me the right workouts to succeed. He pushed me in practice, everything he did for me, made me better. It changed me."
    The turning point for Rollins this year was being part of a 4x400 relay team that earned the junior All-American honors as the team finished eighth, placing a new school record with a time of 3:09.37 at the Division II National Championships.
    It was the proverbial "love at first sight" for Rollins, who teamed up with Anthony Harris, Dexter Lee and Adam Gray, who qualified for Nationals the first time they ran together in the outdoor season with a time of 3:13.32
    It got better for the group.
    The next time out at the Texas Relays, the 4x400 group broke the school record of 3:11.80 with a time of 3:11.50.
    Then it got even better.
    At the East Texas Invite at Abilene Christian, the school broke the school record again with a time of 3:10.45
    The crescendo was at the D-II Nationals where on Day 1, the team ran 3:10.19, breaking the school record again, only to shatter that record with a time of 3:09.37 on Day 2, earning Rollins All-American honors.
    The secret ingredient for Rollins was a firm belief in each other and their faith in God.
    "We pushed each other every day," Rollins said. "We never let one of the other guys quit or give up, it was a total team effort. We knew we needed to push each other and that's what we did. Everything that we did on and off the track, made us better.
    "This is all a blessing, but we all know none of it would have never happened without faith. We know it doesn't come easy and it doesn't come often, but for us to know that the first time we all ran together and we qualified for Nationals, we knew we had something special."
    Page 2 of 2 - That special feeling could last another year as all four return. Rollins, Harris and Gary will be seniors. Lee will be a sophomore.
    The entire process has been a true growing experience for Rollins, who admitted he was ready to leave Texas A&M Commerce had it not been for Dibbern.
    "I endured a lot in a short period of time," Rollins said after leaving Harrisburg for Commerce. "It was a maturation process for me and I had to couldn't go down a certain path if I expected myself to be successful. I couldn't get caught up in the 'college life.'
    "I've always had a solid foundation with my family and my relationship with God. Those things have got me through a lot and I've relied on them a lot."
    Michael Dann can be reached at mdann@dailyregister.com. Follow on twitter: @spydieshooter.
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