Grovetown High School’s Darius Watkins has already put himself on the national map. Now he’s about to go international.
As a member of the local Amateur Athletic Union team Velocity Striders, Watkins competed during the indoor track season at the New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York City, finishing seventh in the 60-meter dash. In the spring, the Warriors junior became Grovetown’s first state champion, winning the 200 at the 2013 Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA track and field championships. He also finished third in the 100.
Heading into the summer track season, Watkins is one of 16 male athletes chosen to participate in the eighth Caribbean Scholastic Invitational, Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, in Carolina, Puerto Rico.
“I’m very excited,” said Watkins. “It’s a lot of hard work I put into it and it finally pays off. I’m looking to go to Puerto Rico and have some very successful times and come back with another championship.”
The United States team, comprised of rising high school juniors and seniors, will compete against others from the Caribbean. Watkins is slated to run the 100 and 200 and participate on relay teams.
Velocity Striders head coach Michael Johnson doesn’t think the competition will faze Watkins.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure. We’re just going to do what we’ve been doing before, just continue to train hard and show up and compete,” said Johnson. “One thing about Darius is he’s a competitor. There’s definitely no pressure.”
Johnson will be traveling to Puerto Rico as well, working as one of the team’s coaches.
“It’s really because the performance these kids did during the indoor season,” said Johnson, who flies to Bradenton, Fla. twice a week to work with elite sprinters at the IMG Sports Academy. “Three kids made the Georgia Indoor All-State team with the Striders.
“We’ve been around three years, but now we’re really starting to come into our own now. They just like what I’ve done with the group.”
The trip carries considerable importance for Watkins.
“Puerto Rico means a lot to me being able to represent my coaches, Grovetown, my country,” Watkins said. “It means a lot to me. It’s a great honor and privilege.”