Friday, November 13, 2020
Men’s national 100 metre record holder Derrick Atkins, who still holds the distinction of being the only Bahamian to win a male sprint medal at the World Championships, has been named the new head women’s coach of the Trailblazers’ track and field club at Dixie State University in Utah.
Yesterday, Atkins was formally introduced to Dixie State University by Dr Jason Boothe, director of intercollegiate athletics, who noted that he brings a wealth of knowledge and world-class experience to help their young team grow and compete at the highest level.
“Derrick will undoubtedly provide an elite level of coaching that our team will need to take the next step. He will strive to instil determination, ambition, sacrifice, and hard work in each student-athlete as he develops them into not only great student-athletes, but leaders beyond their college years as well,” Boothe said.
“He has competed and won at the highest levels of track and field and I have no doubt that he will also be very successful here during this exciting time at Dixie State!”
Accepting the job, Atkins said he’s thrilled about the opportunity, having moved up the ladder after spending the past two seasons as an assistant track coach at Western Carolina University.
“Being able to bring my previous experience of being a professional athlete, and my previous experience at two great championship institutions, to help Dixie become that school and to put Dixie on the map in terms of track and field,” he said.
During his tenure at WCU, Atkins was instrumental in helping guide the Catamounts to a 2019 Southern Conference men’s indoor and outdoor championship sweep, as well as a women’s indoor runner-up finish in 2019, and a 2020 men’s indoor second-place showing.
In 2019, Atkins helped coach 40 all-conference performers, including 15 conference individual champions and three NCAA qualifiers.
In addition, 30 Catamount student-athletes earned academic all-conference honours as the team finished with a 3.40 cumulative GPA (grade point average).
Before he went to WCU, Atkins served three seasons as an assistant coach at Kennesaw State.
During his time at KSU, he was a part of two men’s Atlantic Sun Conference indoor and outdoor track and field championship teams and helped guide the Owls’ women’s team to its first indoor and outdoor conference crowns.
He also coached eight A-Sun individual champions and 15 all-conference athletes.
In 2017, Atkins coached Hannah Woods to two school records (7.48/60-metres and 11.48/100m), and during Woods’ senior year, she was an NCAA East Regional qualifier in the 100-metres.
Atkins also coached the KSU women’s 4x100m relay team to an NCAA East Regional qualification.
Atkins is also a nationally certified coach, holding a USTFCCCA sprints/hurdles/jumps and relays specialist certification.
He was welcomed to the division one coaching fraternity by fellow Bahamian Norbert Elliott, who took over as the head coach for the Boilermakers at Purdue University after another Bahamian Rolando ‘Lonnie’ Greene left for the head coaching job with the Wildcats at the University of Kentucky.
“I’m really excited and very proud of Derrick,” said Elliott, a former versatile athlete at St Augustine’s College who went on to represent the Bahamas in the triple jump at the Olympic Games.
“I was a mentor of Derrick for some time and I think he has certainly learned quite a bit. There is a lot more for him to learn, but I know that he is capable of handling a division one job, having worked his way up the ranks the right way, starting as a volunteer coach and then becoming an assistant coach.”
Although they are not expected to clash in any meets as they are in different athletic conferences, Elliott said he’s looking forward to Atkins joining him and Greene, assisted by “Golden Girl” Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie, on the big stage at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) National Championships.
“In the sport of track and field, we are a close-knit coaching fraternity and with blood thicker than water, me and Lonnie will be looking out for him and Dominic Demeritte and the other coaches,” he said.
“As two of the senior coaches, we want them to know that they can call us for any assistance we can render.”
Before he switched to coaching, Atkins enjoyed a successful track career as a sprinter, having represented the Bahamas as a semi-finalist in the 100m in both the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Summer Olympics Games. He also competed in three International Amateur Athletic Federation World Championships with his crowning glory coming in Osaka, Japan in 2007 when he clinched the silver medal in the 100m in a national record time of 9.91 behind American Tyson Gay (9.85) and just ahead of Jamaican Asafa Powell (9.96).
The CR Walker Secondary High standout left the Bahamas for Dickinson State University where he excelled for all four years, establishing several indoor and outdoor conference sprint records and he also helped lead the Blue Hawks to four Dakota Athletic Conference championships.
For his stellar effort, Atkins was inducted into DSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016 as a seven-time NAIA national champion, winning titles in the 55m, 100m and 200m in 2003, 2004 and 2005 as well as being named All-American 15 times in the sprints and relays.
He also led Dickinson State to consecutive NAIA outdoor national championships in 2004 and 2005, and to a runner-up finish in 2003.
In addition to his national record in the century, 37-year-old Atkins has produced a wind-aided 9.83 and has a lifetime best of 20.35 in the 200m.
He has captured the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ 100m title at the National Championships seven times from 2005-2009 and again in 2012-2013.