When Monroe-Woodbury qualified for states last year out of section 9, they had no real expectations. "I think we were just trying to put our name out there, get everyone to know Monroe-Woodbury," Gilstrap said when discussing the state meet last year. "I think we ran fairly well, I think we could've done better and I think we wanted to come back this year and make a statement" Catherwood had to add.
Despite losing 4 of the 7 runners that raced at the state meet in 2021, they knew they were ready to reload quickly with 3 juniors returning from their sub 8 4x8 squad which happened at the outdoor state meet this past June which left everyone feeling super motivated. "That was a great race for Monroe, I think we thought we could do it (break 8) and we just went out and performed and I think we ran pretty close to our best race so I was really excited about that," Gilstrap said. "The (outdoor) 4x8 was a high and we were coming off that really motivated for the summer." Catherwood, who was also on that 4x8, was out most of the outdoor season with a hip injury essentially said the same thing. "In outdoor I kinda injured my hip, I was out a lot of the season and I ran really bad. Then when we ran sub 8 that was a huge confidence booster for us and the whole team. We knew we had a lot of guys coming back this year and over summer training we all kinda had the expectation that we could run really well this cross country season."
Heading into the summer so motivated, the senior duo didn't even have to push anyone to get their training in. "I think the rest of the guys are pretty responsible. I think they did their miles. I know a couple of the guys I saw out on the trail running during summer. I don't think we really had to push anyone." Catherwood, who's younger brother, Gavin Catherwood, is also on the team said he would bring his brother on runs with him. "My brother is a sophomore and I was dragging him out there everyday when I went out to run."
That summer led to quick results which already made Monroe-Woodbury a standout program this year in the state. Currently ranked number 2 in the state and class A by Milesplit made a quick name for themselves at the VVS invitational where states this year is going to be held by finishing 2nd in the merge. Despite the good result at VVS, the Monroe-Woodbury boys still felt like they didn't have their best day. "I wish I ran a little better, our other teammate John Urciuoli might say he could've run a little better at that meet." Catherwood said, who finished 3rd in the boys varsity 3 race there and 11th in the merge. "I think it gave the guys a little taste for what we could do this season and it was a good motivator especially early in the season for what we want to accomplish down the line." Gilstrap won the varsity 3 race there by 16 seconds and was 4th in the merge.
However, a week later at the Queensbury Invite would be the first time everything really clicked for the Monroe-Woodbury boys where they scored 40 points for the win. Catherwood won the varsity race in a time of 15:35 and Gilstrap was 2nd in 15:36. Both the Collins posted a 181 speed rating and established themselves and Monroe-Woodbury as a threat to the top of the state. "We were pretty excited for it (Queensbury), I was pretty excited, it's a fast course and the whole team ran amazing and the score pretty much reflects that" Gilstrap said on the race.
As for later on in the season, the Monroe-Woodbury boys are taking it one week at a time. "We will take it week by week and in November see how we feel and make the decision then. I think we feel good. I think every race we run we get more confident," Gilstrap said when discussing the goals of the season, to which Catherwood agreed saying "Like Gilly said I think we will take it week by week and hopefully tie it all together in November and have a pretty good postseason."
Matthew Hemmer, who is the current Monroe-Woodbury coach, gave high praise for the two Collins. "Just speaking about these two guys in general, they could not be more coachable and easier to work with. I've been coaching now for 19-20 years between girls and boys and these two are easily two of the most coachable athletes you could ever work for or work with and I know that the outdoor coaches would relay the same that got to work with them in the spring and I'm sure that other coaches in the community in section 9 that are privileged enough to speak with the boys know the type of people they are. They're high in character, they're highly motivated, they do everything you ask of them and they're great kids. Every coach will say that about a lot of people but these two guys are going to be sorely missed next fall when we're trying to piece together a team and not having the Collins at the top to count on."
The Monroe-Woodbury guys race next at the Paul Short Invitational in Lehigh on September 30th.