Harding High track star gearing up to defend national title, while overcoming adversity and loss

CHARLOTTE — A Harding University High School track star is among the best in the world at being light on her feet.

Akala Garrett is making it happen on the world stage but she told Channel 9′s Dashawn Brown that the road has not been easy.

“People tend to talk down on Harding. To talk down on the community because of where we are located. And I want to show that there is light in the darkness,” The Harding University High School’s track coach and Garrett’s mom LaSonja Collins said.

Garrett said she is among the best at overcoming hurdles. On the track, few do it better.

“We’ve pretty much broken every school record that she’s ran in,” Collins said.

When it comes to life, however, “just the pressures of being one of the top athletes. She doesn’t get a break,” Collins said.

Collins said the list of Garrett’s titles runs long. Among high school athletes, Garrett is #1 in the United States in the 100-, 300-, and 400-meter hurdles.

But at times, Garrett said her home track was in disrepair.

“I would say that it’s not fair but life isn’t fair. You got to learn how to work through things. You’re not going to get what you want all the time. And me pushing through without a track and being able to be number one literally practicing on the concrete also showed me that I can be great,” Garrett said.

Collins is a champion in her own right, once capturing the state title in the 100 meters.

“She’s always been my best friend since she was little. She came into my life and helped me grow up, so when I took over as her coach it was one of those things where I don’t want that relationship to break apart. Because of who I know she can be, sometimes I push her past the point where she thinks she’s at,” Collins said.

“The crazy thing is, everybody thinks she plays favorites. No! No, she does not. She is the hardest on me,” Garrett said.

This season Garrett said she is more motivated than ever before. She said she is running this year in honor of Harding’s late principal Dr. Eric Ward, who was one of her biggest supporters.

Ward died unexpectedly last year after suffering from a stroke. He was 46.

“Right before he passed, he said I’m booking my ticket to the Olympics right now,” Garrett said. “I want to be there because that’s where he told me he’s going to be. So if he’s there, I need to get there so we can be there, you know?”

Garrett said she is gearing up to defend her title at the Nike Outdoor National Championship in Oregon next month.

The following week, she will be competing for a spot on the USA team.

Those who wish to help with the funding to get her there can contact purposedriventrackclub@gmail.com for information on how to donate.

(WATCH BELOW: Poor conditions at Harding High’s track leaves coach astonished)