Brown’s Lakers sweep conference awards at GATA Classic

In just their second outdoor meet of the season, the Clayton State athletics program, which is led by Bahamian five-time Olympian Chris Brown, is showing significant progress and giving fans a taste of what’s to come this season.

The Clayton State Lakers swept the conference awards at the GATA (Goldin Athletics Training Association) Classic at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia, over the weekend. They won the four primary Peach Belt Conference (PBC) athletes of the week honors with Na’ilah Allen and Ny’Asia Green winning those awards on the women’s side, and Courtland White and Justin Johnson earning those awards on the men’s side.

Brown, who is in his second year leading the program as head coach, and third in total, said it is a testament of their hard work in the offseason and proves that they are where they need to be.

“I feel pretty good about it,” said Brown from Morrow, Georgia, yesterday. “Being able to watch the kids step on the track for the first time in a while and experience success is a good feeling. The kids were excited to get back out there and see what they could do. They are motivated. That wasn’t even something that we set out to do but it is a sweet feeling. This is a big confidence booster for the kids. They’re excited and ready for the next one. As long as everyone stays healthy, we should do well going into conference.”

Brown is confident that they will be able to show significant improvement this year. In his first year of collegiate coaching, he played a prominent role in helping numerous Lakers athletes set personal best marks, program records and claim Peach Belt Conference individual titles. However, both the indoor and outdoor conference championships were canceled due to the ever-present nature of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, Brown’s Lakers didn’t take part in an indoor season this year, staying away from the danger of COVID-19 and choosing to put their focus on the outdoor season.

“It’s been tough so far but the kids are up to the challenge,” said Brown. “Having to navigate through all of the elements of COVID, social distancing and wearing masks, and keeping yourself and your team COVID-free is a challenge. It’s something that we’re not used to but our kids are not letting that defeat them. They’re good and ready to go. We’re prepared for the shift to get our momentum up and get the chemistry to where it needs to be. They’re working hard and getting in the groove. We’re just doing what it takes to be a threat at conference and keep ourselves safe from COVID. We’re continuing to follow the guidelines of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the university. We’re just trying to stay away from COVID as much as possible. We’ve learnt how to adjust and how to navigate through this. We’re doing a great job so far. It’s just about knowing the danger of COVID-19, knowing the far reaching effects of it and staying away from it. We’ll continue to do our best to keep ourselves safe.”

Next up for the Lakers is the Panther Invitational hosted by Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, this Sunday. At the GATA Classic on Friday and Saturday, the Lakers collected eight wins across the men and women’s divisions. The men won three of eight events while the women took five of 10 events.

In winning Women’s Track Athlete of the Week, senior athlete Allen claimed both the women’s 800 and 1500m titles – the latter in a personal best time and third-fastest in the PBC this season. Sophomore athlete Green was named as the Women’s Field Athlete of the Week, finishing second in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump.

Sophomore athlete White won the 1500m by just over a second in a personal best time and finished third of 15 runners in the 800m, missing first by less than a second, to be named the Men’s Track Athlete of the Week. Junior athlete Johnson won the long jump event, leading to him being named Men’s Field Athlete of the Week.

The only Bahamian athlete in the program, Sasha Knowles, was second in the 800m in a personal best time of 2:25.61 and helped the women’s 4x400m relay team to a fifth place finish. Knowles ran the anchor leg and the team finished in 4:03.10.

“She’s showing significant improvement,” said Brown. “We believe that she is going to have a great season as well as all of our athletes. We feel it’s going to be a progressive season for us.”

Brown said their results over the weekend is just the beginning of what’s to come this season. The Bahamas’ most decorated track and field athlete ever is expecting his team to continue to build on their performances and make a run at the conference title this season.

The Lakers compete out of the PBC in NCAA Division II athletics.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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