One of this fall’s most successful athletes did not score multiple goals, hit a game-winning homerun in the bottom of the ninth, or consistently break under par.
In fact, fans will never see him on a field, court or golf course.
That’s because freshman Caleb Goins is making his mark on the lonely dirt trails of cross-country meets. Consistently finishing races at the top, this 18-year-old has quickly emerged as one of the Cascade Collegiate Conference’s top individual contenders.
Earlier this fall, Goins came away from the Lewis and Clark Invitational, his first collegiate race, with a top-15 finish and the fourth-fastest time among Cascade Collegiate Conference runners.
In his next race, the Northwest Christian Invitational, Goins outperformed 40 other runners to cross the finish line first, which helped carry the Warriors to a second-place finish.
After a disappointing showing at the Charles Bowles Invitational, Goins bounced back with a fourth-place finish at the Warner Pacific/Cascade Open. The team took first place overall.
Not bad, considering this is only Goins second year of competing in cross-country.
In high school, Goins was recognized as one of the fastest kids in his PE classes, but in his first two years of high school he never ran competitively. Freshmen year, Goins lived in eastern Oregon and attended a tiny school without an athletic program. The summer before his sophomore year, Goins moved to Scio and attended East Linn Christian, which had sports, but he did not play because of school work.
However, that changed his junior year.
During a home junior varsity cross-country meet, Goins got his first opportunity to run competitively. He wasn’t on the team roster, nor had he practiced with the team, but the head cross-country coach gave him a green light to race because it was only a JV meet.
Although energetic and excited, Goins showed his inexperience by immediately sprinting out in front of the pack of runners.
“I learned afterwards that the head coach said I would not be able to hold the lead for very long,” Goins recalled.
But Goins never relinquished the lead, even when he had to be told he was taking a wrong turn at one point during the race.
“I think I was running on pure adrenaline the whole time,” Goins said. “I was fortunate with the way things turned out.”
Recognizing Goins natural talent, the head coach immediately asked him to join the track team in the spring. All questions about his athletic ability were answered when he was selected as an all-conference runner.
It was during Goins’ senior year that he really broke loose. In his only year of high school cross-country, Goins won eight out of 10 races and ended with a third-place finish at state. Then at the state track meet that spring, he placed second in the 1,500 and 3,000-meter races.
Goins’ performances in high school attracted recruitment letters from schools such as Azusa Pacific, Western Oregon, Brown and Willamette universities. However, Corban became his destination. Many aspects figured into his decision to attend the small Christian liberal arts school in Salem.
“I have five brothers and one sister, and I love being with them, so being close to home greatly influenced my decision to come here to Corban,” he said. “It was also important to me that it is a place where Christian values are still respected, faces can be recognized and developing relationships with professors is possible.”
After joining the team for training in August, Corban’s coaches quickly confirmed his ability and talent as a runner.
“Caleb is a very unique runner,” head coach Norm Berney said. “He is like a hybrid because he has an excellent combination of speed, strength and endurance. Most runners are either fast or have a lot of stamina but not always both. Caleb has both.”
Illustrating his point, Berney pointed out that Goins anchored his high school’s state champion 4×400 relay team.
“I have never heard of a long distance runner doing that. It something that is very rare,” said Berney.
Success for Goins on the racecourse doesn’t come from talent alone but also through discipline, hard work and a willingness to improve. He has learned to adjust to running the expected 70 miles per week, maintain a consistent pace throughout a race and listen to the advice of the coaches and the more experienced teammates.
“I am only in my second year of running cross country, so I still have plenty to learn,” he said.
Team captain Brian Beeson points toward one aspect of Goins’ character that makes him a winner: a fiercely competitive spirit.
“Caleb is fearless. He runs with the top runners, expecting to win. He does not think about it; he just goes out and runs,” Beeson said. “The sky is the ceiling for Caleb. If he continues to improve and put in those extra miles, I believe he has all-American written all over him.”
Despite the accolades that have come his way, Goins is keeping focused on the approaching conference championships.
“The individual recognition is nice,” Goins said, “But winning as a team is the most rewarding, and by doing my best, I know I am helping the team.”