Local high school track star adds ‘world champion’ to long list of accolades

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) — A Charlotte high schooler has another accolade to add to her storied career.

“Happy is an understatement. Like it’s more than that…words can’t describe how I feel,” said Akala Garrett. “It’s just an amazing feeling to have those two medals around your neck Get to know the people I got to know, make new friends, get new titles in my name like nothing can explain how I feel because it was so much in 10 days and it It’s amazing what can happen in just 10 days.”

Garrett, 17, competed at the World Under-20 Championship in Cali, Colombia, competing against athletes from around the world.

“We were crossing the second-to-last hurdle together, and then I see myself walking away and they walked out of my vision, and then that’s when I cross the line,” she said.

Garrett, a senior at Harding University High School, won gold in the 400-meter hurdles and four-by-four.

His parents were there in the stands.

“When she crossed the finish line, I literally lost my mind,” said her mother, LaSonja Collins.

Collins is also his track coach.

“I’m extremely proud of who she is not only as an athlete, but a good person. And that prevailed over everything. She met a lot of great people, but the belief she had in herself and what we laid the groundwork for. It takes a strong person to go through what they’re going through and still trust the process,” she said.

Last month, Garrett competed in the Nike Outdoor National Championship.

“She first ran it Under 20 Nike. A week later, she ran 100 hurdles and 400 hurdles. Then a week later we went under 20,” Collins said.

But, Mom says, they’ve had their share of rough days, too.

“She has really done a great job this year. And a lot of people don’t know what she went through. Of losing Mr. Ward. He was like our family. There were times when she wanted to quit. Sometimes we didn’t have a lead. She fought through it all. And when she didn’t have anyone else, we always followed them up every day,” Collins said.

Dr. Eric Ward was the principal of Harding University High School. He died last year at the age of 46.

“Representing Harding was great because people talk badly about Harding and think a lot that nobody can come from there,” Garrett said. “But I was just living proof that there are great things that could come out of Harding. I’m just here to show that if you just flick the switch in your mind, you can do anything.

The dynamic duo, mother and daughter, coach and student, are already thinking about the coming year.

“I have the best coach in North Carolina, in the world, in the world, Craig. Really like the world, like she did so much for me, pushed me beyond the limits that I thought I couldn’t exceed. There were times when I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore. She was like we weren’t giving up,” Garrett said.

Garrett will attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 2023.

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