Colin Crigger is in the Rural Retreat High School parking lot before anyone else most every day.
He parks his muscle car dead center of the lot and waits for the bus with its light blinking into the early morning dark.
It’s 6:45 a.m.
Once all the Rural Retreat crew is gathered up, the bus heads up the interstate to pick up another round of students at George Wythe and Fort Chiswell before traveling across the county line to the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School for Science, Mathematics and Technology in Pulaski County.
Most days Crigger’s one of the last to leave the Rural Retreat High School parking lot, too. If practice runs long or there’s a cross country meet in Boone, North Carolina, or a track meet in Christiansburg, his is the last car there, still in the dark.
The packed schedule doesn’t leave a lot of hours for studying.
“It’s a struggle at times,” he said of his choice to take on the extra academic rigors of the governor’s school, “but it can be managed.”
That’s what the time on the bus is for, Crigger notes. It’s where he manages to get a lot of homework done.
It’s hard work, to be sure, but hard work is nothing new to the Rural Retreat senior. He started out, three years and some change ago, as a five-sport athlete, running cross country, track and indoor track while also playing football and soccer.
He didn’t concentrate on running exclusively until last year. If he could step on a time machine and talk to ninth-grade Colin, Crigger said he’d tell himself not to be afraid “to put all your eggs in one basket.”
It’s worked out pretty well, he notes.
And it has.
On Thursday, Crigger signed a letter of intent to attend and compete for Winthrop University. The Indian, soon to be Eagle, will run track at the Division I Rock Hill, South Carolina, school. Winthrop, with a student body of 6,270, competes in the Big South.
Crigger, the third Rural Retreat runner to go off to college under the tutelage of coach Marty Hadaway, will focus on the 400 meter run as a member of the track team.
Hadaway, who has coached Crigger since the senior was a freshman, said the signee has been strong at the 400 and 800, placing at state for all three years in the 800.
For his part, Crigger said his favorite distance is between the two, the 500-meters found in indoor track.
Crigger said his coach has been talking to the university for a good while but things started to come together just before Christmas, when Hadaway had a two-hour phone call with the university.
Academics and Crigger’s grades, Hadaway noted, are a huge asset in getting a Division 1 university to take a gamble on a student from a small school, even if that student has competed in every event possible with the exception of the shot put.
Again, Crigger says he knows there’s going to be plenty of guys faster than he is. His plan, though, is as simple as what he’s been doing the past three and some years. He’s going to work hard.
“I’m ready for that,” he said.
If Crigger’s done anything during his almost four years at Rural Retreat High School, it’s work hard.
When he steps on the Winthrop campus, Crigger’s going to have 63 credits on his college transcripts to go toward his degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting. That’s thanks to the governor’s school, those early mornings and being ready, even as a high-schooler, to work hard.