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

Akala Garrett, a senior at Harding University High School, won gold in the 400-meter hurdles and four by four.
A Charlotte high school senior has even more accolades to add to her career: world champion.
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 11:30 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte high school senior has another accolade to add to her storied career.

“Joyful 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 these two medals around my neck. Get to know the people that I got to know, make new friends, get new titles to my name like it’s nothing. Words can’t explain how I feel because it was just so much in 10 days and it is amazing what can happen in just 10 days.”

Garrett, 17, competed in the Under 20 World Championship in Cali, Colombia, facing off against athletes from across the world.

“We were going over the third to last hurdle together and then I see myself pull away and they got out of my vision kind of and then that’s when I’m going across the line,” she said.

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

Her parents were right there in the stands.

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

Collins is also her track coach.

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

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

“She ran it Under 20 Nike first. 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 also had their share of tough days.

“She really did an awesome job this year. And a lot of people they don’t know what she’s been through. To have lost Mr. Ward. He was like our family. It was times that she wanted to quit. We didn’t have a track at times. She fought through all of it. And when she didn’t have anybody else we still got them to track every day,” Collins said.

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

“To represent Harding it was great because people talk down about Harding and a lot thinking nobody can come from there,” said Garrett. “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 flip the switch in your mind like you can do anything.”

The dynamic duo -- mom and daughter, coach and student, are already thinking about the upcoming year.

“I got the best coach in North Carolina, the world, the world, Craig. Really like the world, like she has done so much for me has pushed me past limits that I thought I couldn’t go past. There’s been times where I didn’t want to do it anymore. She’s been like we are not giving up,” said Garrett.

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

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