The jingling of medals hanging around her neck made Williamsport’s Tionna Collier sound like Santa’s sleigh as she passed through STA stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The senior Millionaires sprinter has had a busy afternoon. The four medals that hung around his neck were all gold. She couldn’t wait to get home to show them off.
Collier’s daughter, Taraji, is 11 months old. Collier wants to be a strong influence in her daughter’s life, someone Taraji can look up to. Collier wants her to know that she can accomplish anything she wants.
Taraji is the reason Collier is always running. And Collier will have at least two more races to run as a member of the Williamsport track team when she competes this weekend at the PIAA Track and Field Championships in Shippensburg.
“Now I really have something to live for because she is really going to admire me,” Collier said after the District 4 meeting last weekend. âI want to be a good role model for her. I want her to watch me for everything.
Collier admits she was a little scared when she found out she was pregnant in October 2019. Initially, she thought she couldn’t balance the whole life about to throw at him. She was in the process of registering for indoor track and field competitions when Collier found out she was pregnant. And the first dose of reality on how her situation was going to change her life came when she realized she couldn’t compete anymore.
But Collier has developed a daily program that allows her to be the mother she wants to be while still finishing her education and even finding enough time to compete in the sport she loves. Collier’s situation is by no means ideal, but she attacked it head-on, refusing to allow herself to become a statistic and refusing to let Taraji down in any way.
“Some people didn’t expect me to come back like this, but I want to prove everyone wrong.” Collier said. âMy family plays an important role in this area. I love them and they love me. I do this for them.
After Taraji was born in June of last year, Collier chose to take the distance learning option offered by the Williamsport School District for her senior year. In doing so, she could be Taraji’s mother during the day while attending her classes.
After Taraji goes to bed at night, Collier makes sure all of her work is done. Before bed, she spends maybe an hour or so on her phone as a little time for herself. But she’s back the next morning to start all over again. Now the schedule has become a routine and the lack of sleep is something she has become accustomed to.
But during those first few months there was a lot of worry. Collier said she had struggled with postpartum depression. She had trouble sleeping at night, still wondering if Taraji was okay in her crib and still watching her.
One of the things that helped settle Collier and put her in a comfortable routine was getting back to the track team in March. Her sisters and parents vowed to watch Taraji for a few hours each day to make sure Collier could start doing something she loved so much again.
Collier was a 13-second 100-meter sprinter for the Millionaires the last time she raced on the track in 2019. Frankly, she didn’t think she would return to that level. But as she got back into shape, Collier surpassed where she was in sophomore.
She was a little incredulous two weeks ago at the PHAC North Section meeting when she ran a career record 12.69 seconds to win the 100-meter title. She did even better at the district meet in 12.66 seconds to win her first individual trip to the state meet. She followed him with a run of 26.22 seconds in the 200 for a career best time and another gold medal. Collier also ran the third stage of the 400 relay, which clocked its best time of the year. And she was the first stop for the 1600 relay team that beat Selinsgrove by nearly two seconds for a spot in the state competition.
“As a mother, I don’t know how she does it” Williamsport coach Vicki Eberhart said. âShe’s probably the hardest working kid we have. And coming back after having a baby, she thought about it and decided that was what she wanted to do. I think it’s great. It shows that you can have kids and still be good at the things you want to do. “
Collier’s situation is far from ideal and she understands it. But in a weird way, it has helped her focus on her schedules and time management and get all aspects of her life in order. Collier is still a student on the Honor Roll. She is still a top athlete. And she is these things as well as a mother who has learned what true devotion is over the past 11 months.
Collier is still considering options for college. She has sought to stay close to home to attend school, and she has also explored the idea of ââleaving the area to find a school where she can continue running while receiving an education. There are a lot of things to work out before Collier decides what is next in her life. She is still focused on taking care of Taraji while Collier makes the trip to Shippensburg on Saturday.
None of this has been easy. But what could easily have been negative for someone so young, Collier turned this time of his life into a positive. She has Taraji’s name and birthday tattooed in script letters on her left forearm to remind her why she does everything she does now. And no matter what happens on Saturday in Shippensburg, Collier can’t wait to get home and hold her baby girl and tell her about what she’s accomplished this spring. She looks forward to continuing to be someone Taraji can take as proof that whatever you decide is possible.
“I’m so proud of myself because I never thought I could come back after having a baby,” Collier said. âI never expected it. But I had so many people on my side as motivators, like my family and my coaches. And I’ve been thinking all season that you can do this for your daughter. I know she’s going to look at me. I want her to look at me. I want her to say that my mom is my role model. “