Three goals, three times the ambition; Echols reaches state, breaks personal, school record

Colin Echols at the 2015 UIL 6A Regional Track and Field Championships. Photo by Brad Tollefson.

By Sloane Samberson
Staff Writer


Three goals in mind.


Junior discus thrower Colin Echols had three goals in mind this track and field season.


It is Saturday, May 16, and the University Interscholastic League (UIL) State Track and Field meet at the University of Texas at Austin is underway. Echols’ heart races and sweat beads on his forehead. He steps into the ring. All eyes on him, he prepares to throw.


His right arm goes back, body weight on his right foot. As he starts to throw, his weight shifts to the left foot, he makes a 540 degree turn and releases it.


What did he throw? One hundred eighty-five feet and seven inches.


“I turned to the person sitting next to me and said, ‘His goal this year was to get to state,’” Colin’s mother Karen Echols said. “‘If he got to state he wanted to throw a personal record (PR), and if he threw a PR he wanted to break the school record.’ He did all three.”


For Colin’s father, Mark Echols, this was all part of the plan.


Colin Echols at the 2015 UIL 6A Regional Track and Field Championships. Photo by Brad Tollefson.

“We had planned on breaking the school record since he has dedicated so much hard work, which is great to see in kids nowadays,” Mr. Echols said. “You have to put goals up there and try to achieve them, and Colin did. Now it’s time to make new ones.”


Colin did not place first but second in the state in Class 6A. Overall, this puts Colin third in Texas and 26th in the nation for men’s discus.


“Placing to me doesn’t really matter,” Colin said. “I could place last and throw my best and still be fine with that. It’s all about how I compete against myself and how I mentally prepare. Overall, I’m happy with my performance at state.”


If it wasn’t for Colin’s curiosity in seventh grade, he probably would have never gotten involved in men’s discus.


“I was in athletics at Coppell Middle School East,” Colin said. “At the time, I didn’t know what discus was. I wanted to see what they were offering, so I went out to all of the field events and I found that discus was fun, that I could do it on my own, that I could throw something somewhat heavy, really far. Since then I’ve stuck with it.”


In eighth grade Colin set his focus on breaking East’s men’s discus record.


“It had been up there for 19 years,” Colin said. “I was like, ‘I want my name on the board,’ so I asked my dad to help me find a private coach. Once we found one, I worked really hard and broke the school record at 153 feet eight inches. It was previously 123 feet.”


Jen Holt was Colin’s first private coach, who helped him achieve this goal.


Holt threw discus for California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo from 1991 to 1994. She currently holds third for women’s discus in the school records, right behind Olympic gold medalist, Stephanie Brown. Holt volunteered at Coppell Middle School North to assist coach Carrie Chordas, when her son Ryan Holt was competing.


“I was never officially a coach there, just an enthusiastic parent that knew how to throw,” Holt said via Facebook.


When Holt left Coppell for Denver, Colin’s parents got in touch with Adam Setliff, Colin’s current private coach. Setliff was in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics for men’s discus.


“When [Colin] first told us that he wanted to focus strictly on discus, we decided that we needed to get him another private coach,” Mrs. Echols said. “I used to work with some executives, one in particular who was very involved with the Olympics. I reached out to him, asking if he knew anybody that threw discus in the metroplex, and that is how we found Adam [Setliff].”


Aside from in school track and field practices, Colin practices with Setliff six to seven days a week outside of school.


“Monday through Friday is always lifting and throwing, and then on Saturdays, it’s a designated lifting day,” Colin said. “We train at St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, where Adam is an assistant coach for field events. Sometimes we train at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson or at Frisco High School.”


Setliff sees that Colin has an obvious desire to get better.


“Colin drives out to train with me every night, even on weekends,” Setliff said. “He’s gained about 40 pounds in seven months, but the biggest thing is he is growing to understand discus. It’s no longer a superficial understanding of the discus. It looks like it’s all about speed, strength and power, but there’s an intangible quality involved in throwing the discus well.”


In response to Colin’s success at state, Setliff is a very proud coach.


“He has come a long way in a very short time, and at that we can go much, much higher,” Setliff said. “Discus throwing is hard, there is no team, nobody helping you; it’s just you under a microscope, and it gets even harder under pressure. When a kid goes to a high pressure meet and throws a personal record, you can’t do anything except applaud them.”


Coppell track coach Karl Pointer is also proud to see the growth Colin has made in discus these past two years.


“This is why I coach,” Pointer said. “To see kids grow and be successful in what they do. I think there is still a lot there for him to do. He’s only scratched the surface. In the future we’re going to see even more. I expect him to break the record again, setting it further than before. I expect him to be at state again, competing for that gold medal.”


Colin is already setting big goals for next year’s track and field season.


“My hopes for next year is to be the top in the country,” Colin said. “Right now what is leading in the country is 214 feet, which is a really good throw. I’ve been having some really great days at practice. I know I can easily throw upper 190s to 200 feet, it’s just a matter of time when I hit that.”


Not only that, but Colin has very big long term goals for his future in men’s discus.


“In college I want to be a NCAA champion, as well as the best at my college,” Colin said. “Then if I qualify for the Olympics in college or after college, I’ll hopefully be one of the guys at the Olympics that people are like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to watch out for this guy, he’s probably going to be one of the better throwers. We have to worry about him.’”