COLUMBIA -- The weather didn't cooperate in the Covington, Ga., area this past week, which meant Elija Godwin and his teammates on the track team at Newton High School only had one day of practice.
"So I came out and was running on just straight muscle," Godwin said after competing in the 400-meter dash at the Bojangles Track & Field Classic Saturday at Spring Valley High School. "It wasn't good preparation coming in. I knew I had to just come out here and do my best.
"I wasn't happy with the outcome. I wish I could have done better. When you look back on a race, you could always do better. The best thing for me right now is to make sure I stay consistent on practices and training."
You'd think Godwin struggled in the race. The thing is, he zipped around the track and edged High Point (N.C.) Central's Chantz Sawyers to win with a time of 46.34 seconds -- a meet record and the third-fastest in the U.S. this season.
"I like to tell myself I'm running against the clock," Godwin said. "I look at it as a milestone, but I'm not done yet. I'm hoping to have better times later in the season."
Godwin is nothing if not driven.
It was just the third time Godwin had competed in the 400 this season. He also won the 200, finishing in 21.27, and was chosen Most Valuable Track Athlete in the meet. For good measure he placed third in the triple jump (45 feet, 9.5 inches).
Godwin, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior, is also a top prospect in football as a safety, and he hopes to continue both sports in college. He already has football scholarship offers from Virginia, Ball State, Central Michigan, Miami of Ohio and Samford.
Godwin began playing football at the age of 5. He started running track in middle school but just to stay in shape for football. Then he joined the Elite Speed Track Club.
"Coach (Frederick) Sands introduced me to summer track, I starting dropping times, and that's when I started taking it a lot more seriously," Godwin said.
Godwin attended Alcovy High School as a freshman and then transferred to Newton for his sophomore year. Up to that point, he had been running the 100 and 200, but Newton already had someone for those events. The team needed a 400 runner.
"My first race was a 47.4," Godwin said. "I started looking at times and noticed how good that was, so I naturally stuck with it after that, and I've never looked back."
Godwin has run the 100 and 200 a handful of times each this season, but his focus is on the 400, which he said is a rarity among football players.
"Most of the time they're (100) and (200) guys, because they don't usually have that stamina to get around the whole track that fast," he said.
The last time Godwin ran in the 100, in the NewRock Track and Field Championship in Covington, he won the event in 10.52 -- the fastest in the state this season.
Godwin said he always feels as though he's making up for lost time when the outdoor season begins.
"During the summer, and when a lot of people get to focus on indoor season and get to run year-round, I'm on the football field," Godwin said. "So I kind of feel like I'm playing catchup when I come out for the outdoor season. Everybody had great indoor seasons. They come out prepared.
"If you think about football, it's a lot of cutting, a little side-to-side type of thing. You've almost got to change that immediately, because you're running straight ahead. It's vice versa when you go into the football season. You're used to running straight, and now you've got to make cuts. You've got to be physical and make big hits."
Even without the help of an indoor season, Godwin is posting impressive numbers. It's just that he'd like them to be even lower.
That 46.34 in the 400? Well, he has a PR of 45.83, so he'd like to get back to that neighborhood and below. And the 21.27 was nice, but he's run 21.02 in the 200.
And even though he maintains a grade-point average of 3.5, Godwin rattles it off as if it's OK but could be better. When it's suggested he's highly disciplined, Godwin said he feels a responsibility to have his bases covered.
"It just came with the expectations," he said. "When I started getting my name out there by going to summer track meets and kids already knowing who you are, I just wanted to be that person to set a good example for them."