By Brittany Nelson, IMCOMFebruary 26, 2019
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Over the past decade, the All-Army running teams have seen major improvements - from the caliber of athletes, to the recruiting process, to multiple broken records and championships - thanks to Coach Col. Liam Collins.
"Collins has really pushed to improve the team," said Maj. Kelly Calway, an All-Army runner. "From the selection process, to sending workouts to people all over the globe so they are ready for race day, he really embodies everything an All-Army coach should. He's dedicated to excellence and his impact to the program is undeniable."
Collins, director of the Modern War Institute and the Department of Military Instruction at West Point, became the All-Army running coach in 2009. Before coaching, he participated in the program as an athlete, joining right after college.
"I ran cross country and track at West Point. I became the team captain my senior year," Collins said. "The night I graduated from West Point, I caught a plane ride to compete in the Armed Forces track and field championship."
After competing on the Army team for years, Collins was ready to become the coach and transform the team.
"I wanted to become the running coach because I was tired of losing. My favorite part about coaching is the athletes, and not only the Army athletes, but all of the Armed Forces teams. We have good friendships and great competition," Collins said.
Collins has helped the team to multiple victories. The men's cross country team has won the Armed Forces Championship seven years in a row, the women's team has won it five consecutive times, and both teams have had perfect scores three times.
The Army 10-Miler team has set the course record five times, and Army runners have won the overall race for the past four years.
For the first 35 years of the Marine Corps Marathon, an Army runner had never won the race. But over the past eight years, the Army teams have had five male and two female champions.
Calway, who will be competing in her third U.S. Olympic Marathon trials in 2020, discusses Collins' coaching technique and passion for the Soldier athletes.
"He has been a great friend, and as a coach he is honest. Sometimes it might not be what you want to hear but I have come to value that. He keeps tabs on everyone," Calway said. "He goes every year and scours the Army 10-Miler results. He has elevated our team to a power house. We have been dominate in all of the events."
Fellow Navy coach, retired Cmdr. James Felty, met Collins while he was an athlete himself at the World Military games in Rome.
"Collins is terrific, he guides the athletes to their top performance through smart strategic planning. He provides them with a road map, a vision, to not only create a successful running career but also an Army career," Felty said.
Collins manages the team year round and Sgt. Esther Spaulding, a cross country and marathon runner, appreciates the work he puts in.
"Even though he is managing a team all over the country, he is always tuned into training. I know that he is very busy, but he is invested," Spaulding said. "He is always pushing us and wants us to succeed. For him to get the results that he does speaks volumes. We have a good team dynamic due to him."
Thanks to the All-Army Sports program, the athletes are able to take aspects of training and apply them to their Soldier duties.
"The same things that make you a good athlete make you a good soldier. Its work ethic, mental and physical toughness. I can't imagine any job you do where being physically fit isn't advantageous," Collins said. "I've gone through some tough military training but I say nothing is harder than a marathon."
Collins' drive to help the running team paid off. He helped the team set multiple records and achieve numerous victories over the past ten years -- and athletes like Calway are grateful.
Collins is set to retire in September and he will be missed, according to Coach Felty and the team.
"I will miss the program 100 percent. I'll miss the camaraderie, the athletes and coaches like Jim Felty," Collins said.