Grovetown High School junior Darius Watkins has had success since he began running track his freshman year in Oklahoma, but he’s had to overcome some growing pains along the way.
That included having his appendix removed after moving to Georgia right before the track season began last year. He came out late and head coach Rodney Tyson wasn’t sure what type of an athlete he had at first.
“The first meet was a tune-up and he did not do very well over at Westside,” said Tyson. “He finished last in all of his races. He started to work hard and he started to get in shape, and as the season went on he made it to the state meet in the 100 meter dash and the 200.”
He struggled in both events at the 2012 Georgia High School Association Class AAA Boys State Meet, failing to qualify for the finals. Rather than give up, the disappointment fueled his desire to get better.
“This year at state I really want to make it to the finals because last year I was kind of embarrassed in the 100 and 200,” said Watkins. “On the way home from the track meet, I knew I never wanted to let that happen again. So that’s when I started working harder..., and I dropped my time by a full second in both my events.”
That change came after he started working with coach Michael Johnson of the AAU Velocity Striders over the summer. He will conclude a successful indoor season with the Striders, competing alongside nine other members of the team at the New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York City, Friday, March 8 through Sunday, March 10.
Watkins is more nervous about getting on the plane than he is about running the 60, 200 and a leg of the 4x200 relay.
“I’m used to running with some of the top sprinters in the state and the nation, and I feel like I’m one of the top sprinters in the nation, so I feel like I’m going to do really well at this track meet,” Watkins said.
“He’s got a unique combination of desire and talent,” said Tyson. “The one thing about Darius, he will never, ever complain no matter how tough the workout is. I have seen this kid pass out on the track, literally, get up, get his composure and in five minutes be back on the track running again. He just works that hard.”
After the indoor season, he can turn his full focus on what means most to him.
“My ultimate goal, of course, is to become a state champion,” Watkins said.
“My largest goal is to become a national champion and get some recognition and be recruited big-time. I want to go to the University of Florida.”
Getting there will mean beating faster competition than he faced as a freshman in Oklahoma.
“I finished fourth at state that year in the 200 with a 22.6,” Watkins said. “Then I moved to Georgia and they’re running 21.3s and high 20s. I wasn’t ready for the competition at first; I was in shock.
“Once I got used it, it really gives me a thrill knowing I’m running with some really fast competition.”