Albemarle graduate competes in Olympic trials

Akala Garrett was a Bulldog for her senior year of high school

Akala Garrett represents the Texas Longhorns in a hurdles event (photo courtesy of University of Texas Athletics)

ALBEMARLE — Two years ago, Akala Garrett became a world champion track athlete at the age of 17 as she won a pair of gold medals at the World Junior Championships.

Over the weekend, the former Albemarle High School state champion — now a first-team All-American and rising sophomore at the University of Texas — achieved her first U.S. Olympic Team Trials appearance in Eugene, OR, as the youngest competitor in the field.

Garrett finished third in the third heat of the semifinals of the women’s 400-meter hurdles on Saturday, qualifying in time to advance to Sunday’s finals.

“This isn’t nothing but God. I’m so thankful, with that not being my best race. God said you will move on,” Garrett said in a social media post after Saturday’s event. “He is so amazing because it’s crazy that I’m a freshman in the Olympic Trials final. I literally couldn’t stop crying when I found out — someone pinch me. Let’s go have fun and show everyone who God is! Love you guys, I’m so thankful for the encouragement I’m getting.”

A day later, Garrett finished seventh out of nine participants in the finals with a time of 55.01, coming up short of securing a spot in the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.

“It was hard, but it was fun, and that’s all that matters,” she said in a reaction video on Sunday night. “Thanks for all the support!”

Back in the summer of 2022, Garrett transferred to Albemarle from Charlotte’s Harding High for her senior season of high school.

Already a seven-time NCHSAA 4A state champion across indoor and outdoor track, she left an impact on the Bulldogs as she led them to a strong performance at the 2023 NCHSAA 1A/2A Indoor Track state meet; Garrett set new 1A state meet records in four different events, assisting Albemarle to a second-place finish in the overall team standings.

In total, she accumulated 16 state titles as a high schooler. Her collegiate athletic career so far picked up right where she left off in Stanly County.

This past April, Garrett earned her first Big 12 weekly honor at the 64th annual Mt. SAC Relays as the only freshman ranked in the top-20 of the NCAA. Additionally, her 400m hurdles time moved her to No. 8 on the University of Texas All-Time Performer List.

A month later, she became the Big 12 400m hurdles champion with the second-fastest time in UT history (54.73), later notching the first-place spot in the 600-yard at her first Big 12 Championships.

The Texas women’s team finished at the top of the conference standings, besting Texas Tech and Oklahoma State by a wide margin.