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Provo • Her family can laugh about it now, and often does, but when the BYU track star then known as Shea Martinez called her parents in Layton to tell them she was dating a well-known BYU basketball player by the name of Kyle Collinsworth, she didn't get the response she was expecting.
"They kinda freaked out," she said. "At first, they weren't [excited] about it."
Shea's parents, Evelyn and Anthony Martinez, were so disturbed by it that they jumped in the car the next day and drove to Provo to meet with their daughter, and then-BYU women's track coach Patrick Shane.
"We had a meltdown, for a couple of reasons," Evelyn Martinez said. "I told Patrick, 'You gotta stop this, it is not going to work.' Mostly, we were just concerned that Kyle's dreams would interfere with Shea's dreams, and vice versa."
Shane, who retired last fall after 36 years at BYU, tried to calm their fears.
"He had Kyle over for dinner, and he called us up and said, 'You need to re-evaluate, he's a really good kid,' " Evelyn said.
But the day care teacher and her husband, a self-employed rain gutter installer, became more skeptical when they took the young couple out to dinner in Provo and BYU basketball fans continually interrupted their meal to ask Collinsworth for his autograph or a picture.
"It was crazy and chaotic, and I was really annoyed by that," Evelyn said. "We are just regular, down-to-earth people. I thought, 'This is not going to work for Shea.' We knew what Kyle's plans were, and they kind of didn't mix with hers."
Three years later, the professional athlete and soon-to-be-professional athlete are happily married, and Shea's parents couldn't be more pleased with the way things are going for their daughter and son-in-law, who recently completed his rookie season in the NBA Development League with the Texas Legends, affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks.
"Shea is the athlete she has become because of him," Evelyn said. "He's a huge part of it. He just accentuates what she is doing. I didn't think there could be anyone more determined and disciplined than her, but Kyle is."
Married for almost two years now, Shea Collinsworth's track career is going better than ever. The senior set a BYU school record in the 800-meter run at the Iowa State Indoor Classic with a time of 2 minutes, 1.51 seconds, then placed third at the national championship in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships two weeks later with a time of 2:02.35.
She started the outdoor season by winning the 800 meters at the 38th Sun Angel Classic on April 8 in Tempe, Ariz., with a time of 2:01.51, the best women's 800 time in the country this season.
"She truly is one of the greatest runners that will ever come out of BYU," said new assistant cross country and distance coach, Diljeet Taylor, who took over for Shane last fall. "She has amazing, God-given talent, and she has put in a ton of work. She is one of the hardest workers I have ever coached. … Marriage hasn't slowed her down at all."
Although the 800 is Collinsworth's specialty, she also occasionally competes in the 1,500 meters and the 400 meters, and was fourth in the 1,500-meter run at the Stanford Invitational on April 1. This weekend, Collinsworth and three teammates will try to win the 4 x 1,500 relay at the prestigious Penn Relays.
"We want to win that big wheel [trophy], and bring that home, be the first [BYU] team to win that," Collinsworth said." That would be a really cool honor, to win that. It's definitely a goal."
Obviously the next goal would be running a sub-2 minute 800, which is what it would take to break Julie Jenkins' school record of 2:00.50 and win an NCAA national championship.
"I have my eye set on that, and I feel like with coach Taylor's training, that goal is in reach now," Collinsworth said. "It is something tangible now."
Collinsworth said after the NCAAs June 7-10 in Eugene, Ore., she will sign a professional contract and turn her sights on the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
"She has what it takes, which is why right now a lot of professional coaches and agents are looking at her, because they see that she has the ability to get there," Taylor said. "And I don't say that as a coach unless the opportunity really is there."
Long distance relationship
Shea and Kyle first met in the weight room in BYU's student athlete building when Collinsworth asked her to rate his workout outfit and she said "probably a three" and turned and walked away, not really interested because she was sort of waiting for a missionary she dated in high school.
But they crossed paths in the SAB a few days later, had a longer conversation this time, and were married in the Salt Lake LDS Temple in June of 2015.
In their first year as a married couple, Kyle completed his senior season at BYU by setting an NCAA record for career triple-doubles (12) and Shea became a first-team all-american by placing third in the 800 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Their second year of marriage has been much more difficult because Kyle lived in the Dallas area for eight months playing for the Legends and Shea stayed in Provo for her senior year of track and to complete her degree in family studies. He is now back in Provo as a free agent and looking to find a roster spot with an NBA team for July's summer league circuit.
"It was really hard, to be honest," Shea said of the time apart. "I thought it was going to be a lot easier, but there were definitely ups and downs to it. Coach Taylor [also married to a former college basketball player] and the team have helped. I talked a lot with her, and she was really encouraging and helped get me through it. I had a good support system with both extended families living in Utah, but it was definitely hard."
Cookin' with Kyle
Rehabbing after his ACL injury in 2014, Kyle Collinsworth became hooked on nutrition and "eating clean," so much so that he returned much faster than anyone thought possible and became one of the most-accomplished basketball players in BYU history.
The couple has a website dedicated to helping high-level athletes eat healthier http://www.athletesguide5.com and often posts recipes and health and fitness tips on the site.
Shea said her husband has used his expertise in eating healthier to help her improve her own performances on the track. She said Kyle is her biggest fan and supporter (along with her grandfather, Michael Olsen, a former college sprinter) and totally the opposite of what her parents originally feared.
"I joke that while he is back I have my chef back," she said. "He does a lot of the cooking. I eat pretty healthy, too. I will have In-N-Out [burgers] occasionally. That's my favorite. But we both love nutrition, and Kyle has helped me so much in that regard."
Aside from her grandfather's sprinting abilities, athleticism doesn't run in Shea's family. But former coach Shane once said she has the perfect genetics to be a great middle-distance runner. That talent and ability was recognized when she was young and would beat all the boys in footraces at Layton's Heritage Elementary School.
Soccer was actually her first love, but Evelyn Martinez says her track coach in junior high "told us she had something special" and eventually would have to choose between the sports, which run simultaneously in Utah high schools. She chose track, and became a champion and an all-american in multiple events at Davis High.
"Oddly, it was her Sparta [United] club coach who encouraged her to do track and said it would help her soccer out," Evelyn said.
Corbin Talley, in his 14th year as Davis High's track coach, says he knew almost immediately that Shea was special after having watched her in junior high track meets. As a ninth-grader, she was competitive against Mountain View senior Kelsey Brown, the state record-holder in the 800, at an indoor meet at BYU.
"I remember thinking, 'She is going to be phenomenal,' " Talley said. "You could just tell."
Talley's favorite story is the time Shea went to the prestigious Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational as a senior and won both the mile and the 800, which were contested less than an hour apart. She was so exhausted after running the mile that she could barely get to the starting line for the 800, but she found another gear and won it against the best female distance runners in the country.
"She just did it off of sheer guts," Talley said. "She did that multiple times. Time after time, she did more than anybody would have thought she had in her."
Several years later, even marriage to a college basketball superstar couldn't change that.
• First place in the 800 meters at Arizona State's 38th Sun Angel Classic with a time of 2 minutes, 1.51 seconds.
• Third place in the 800 at the NCAA Indoor Championships with a time of 2:02.35.
• First place in the 800 at the Iowa State Indoor Classic with a career-best and school-record indoor time of 2:01.42.
• Fourth place in the 1,500 meters at the Stanford Invitational.