ATHENS, Ohio — It took a little longer than expected, but by staying the course — Peyton Adkins reached the finish line of her dreams.
Adkins, a 2012 graduate of Gallia Academy High School, recently completed a stellar — yet trying— athletic career with degree in hand from Ohio University.
Adkins — who accumulated over a dozen Southeastern Ohio Athletic League titles and six all-state honors during her running career at GAHS — was part of a long five-year journey that saw some real lows along the way, but her inner belief and some support along the way helped Adkins reach new heights during her three-sport tenure with the Bobcats.
Adkins — whose older sister Lauren also competed at OU — was part of 10 separate events during her Division I career, which included competitions in cross country and both indoor and outdoor track.
During her time in the Green and White, Adkins amassed over 50 top-20 finishes and was part of a pair of event championships — both of which came on the track.
Adkins won the Ohio Open 3,000-meter steeplechase event outdoors in May of 2014, then served as a part of the winning indoor distance medley relay team at the 2015 Chipotle Marshall Invitational.
Besides those events and cross country, Adkins also competed in the indoor 800m and 1,000m runs, the outdoor 1,500m run, the indoor and outdoor 3,000m event, and the indoor and outdoor 5,000m race.
Her personal-best time in a 5K cross country race was 18:47.7, which came in 2014 at the Miami (OH) University Invitational. By the time she finished her collegiate career, the 3,000m steeplechase was her signature event — which included a pair of top-five efforts at North Carolina venues in her final season.
Her athletic endeavours took her numerous places that allowed her to see a lot of a new sights and take in a lot of diverse people and cultures.
Having survived the trials of training and the rigors of being a student, Adkins is absolutely proud of what she has managed to accomplish in a very short amount of time.
And despite the hard work, she notes that every drop of it was worth it.
“Ohio has provided me so many great opportunities throughout my collegiate career. I found it to be very special to be both an athlete and a student at the same time, mainly because you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself,” Adkins said. “It’s really like one big family, including the other sports besides the runners. We were all representatives for the Ohio Bobcats, so there was a unique bond between any of the student-athletes on campus.
“At Ohio, I can say that I have met some of my very best friends in life — people that will be in my wedding. The travel was nice and the experiences were amazing, but those lifelong bonds will be the greatest thing that I will take away from my time as a Bobcat. Well, except for the degree of course.”
What Adkins also found in her experience at the Division I level was that the venues were legendary … and so was the competition.
“Getting to compete at places like Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Louisville and all around the Mid-American Conference states was pretty intense, especially when you are at the same event with national champions and Olympic competitors,” Adkins said. “In high school, you were really only competing against certain competitors in your state or in your region of the state. In traveling with a Division I program, you find out really fast that there are a lot of great athletes in this country … so it’s going to take a lot of really hard work to set yourself apart from that pack.
“My teammates were the best runners at their high schools, like me, so it does help in the training aspect of things. It really was a growing experience to see that there are all kinds of different ways to succeed with different training regimens. I really learned a lot more about something I’ve known my whole life.”
Early on, however, Adkins started having spells where she would lose her balance or pass out after events — which caused her to take a medical redshirt her freshman year.
The condition got so bad at one point that Ohio University coaches wouldn’t even allow her practice due to their concerns with Peyton’s health.
So, after being limited as an athlete most of her first two years of college, the big breakthrough came with a trip to the doctor’s office — where she was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.
POTS is a form of orthostatic intolerance that occurs in a standing position and occurs mostly in women between the ages of 15 and 50. Other side effects tend to target the circulatory system and heart, which can lead to dizziness, fatigue, headaches, chest pain and shortness of breath.
In basically being reduced to a dormant athlete and a redshirt freshman, Adkins said that those first two years were really tough to go through. She also made it known that despite finding out what was causing the problem and what it could mean for her physically, she never wavered in wanting to get back into competition.
“I didn’t really know what was wrong with me at the start of my college career. I was slow and my legs felt heavy, and my coaches didn’t really know what was going on with me either. Eventually, they wouldn’t even let me run at all … even at practice,” Adkins said. “I went to a cardiologist to have some tests done and I passed out during a table tilt test, which allowed us to figure out that I had POTS.
“I never really gave a second thought to not running because running at college was something that I just always wanted to do. I just had a competitive mindset and didn’t want to give up, so I pushed through it. My teammates and my family were really supportive of me through all of that too, so we were able to get through those tough times and things eventually got better with the right kinds of treatment.”
Things started feeling a bit more normal after the diagnosis and she was back in full stride entering her third full season as a redshirt sophomore.
In getting back to competition, Adkins found herself looking for a specific event to excel in. Trial and error ended up helping with that decision over the next few years.
“I ended up trying several different events in college, some of which I had never even heard of before I arrived on campus. There are just so many different distance races in college, so trying to figure out which ones were best for me and the team was the hardest part early on,” Adkins said. “One day my junior year, I just started messing around with the steeplechase hurdles in practice … and it pretty much became my thing. It’s a really tough race, but it’s also a lot of fun.”
Adkins posted her career best time of 11:17.41 in the 3,000m steeplechase during the 2016 Mid-American Conference championships in 2016, which resulted in an 11th place finish.
Adkins — who earned a degree in Early Childhood Education — begins the next phase of her career in August when she starts at Belpre Elementary as a first grade teacher.
Adkins is also engaged to former Warren High School standout Wes Cochran, a fellow Ohio University graduate (Engineering) and cross country athlete.
The couple — who met as high school seniors after each won the individual SEOAL cross country races in 2011 at Jackson — will be getting married in June of 2018 and currently reside in Marietta, Ohio.
Adkins admits that the competition will be tough to replace, but she is also considering a move to coaching as a way to fill the void. Plus, given her constant concerns with POTS, a career to adjust to and a wedding to plan, there are plenty of things to keep her busy.
In all of that, she also has to find some time to stay up with her former teammates and the programs at Ohio.
As she easily expresses, time will be made for those who helped her along the way.
“The thing I’ll remember most won’t be the times that I ran. It will be those lifelong relationships that I developed with my teammates and my coaches,” Adkins said. “Through the good and bad of competing and studying, those were the people that have helped me get to where I am today. That’s something that you can never forget.”
Peyton is the daughter of Jeff and Andrea Adkins of Gallipolis, Ohio.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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