This is Deji Ogeyingbo’s column on Nia Atkins, who runs the 800 m heats on Wednesday, August 23, 2023. 

Nia Akins: A Steadfast Pursuit of Gold at the World Championships in Budapest

When Nia Akins won her first outdoor 800m National title last month, it felt like a culmination of a long journey that had started when she first made the hard decision to move to Seattle to join the Brooks Beast and turn Professional in 2020. The logistics of moving to Seattle amid the travel restrictions and safety concerns all seemed to be worth it after she crossed the finish line first at the 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field with a time of 1:59.50.

It all felt surreal, and although she savored the moment, her next goal is to make her mark at the very first world championships in Budapest. The win came Five months ago; after winning her first indoor national title in the 800 meters, Akins sat down and, for the first time ever, wrote down the words, “I want to win outdoor nationals.”

Nia Atkins, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, July 6-10, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Four races outdoors this year and four wins for Akins. She’s all strapped up and ready to go to Budapest and challenge for a medal. The journey to this point has not been smooth sailing, but Akins has weathered the storm as she looks to set the world ablaze when she takes up a very strong field at the world championships. 

Born with a natural affinity for running, Akins’ journey in the 800m category has been nothing short of remarkable. The track has been her canvas, where each race stroke paints a picture of her dedication, hard work, and unwavering commitment to her craft.

Akins, who graduated from the University of Philadelphia three years ago with a 2:00.71 indoor 800-meter best, has explored a lot of her untapped potential as a professional with the Brooks Beasts training group, under coach Danny Mackey’s guidance.

Nia Atkins, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, July 6-10, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

The transition to living in Seattle hasn’t been completely smooth. While in Philadelphia, Akins lacked access to a track and had to bring chalk while on her runs in order to sketch out her paths. Even with being on a professional team, training requires creativity as runners face the same problems, largely lacking readily-available facilities. Regardless, Akins has forged in order to churn out incredible results. 

A pivotal moment in Akins’ career arrived when she made her mark on the collegiate scene, representing the University of Pennsylvania with unparalleled tenacity. Her performances not only caught the attention of fellow athletes but also set a trail ablaze for her journey to the upper echelons of the sport. The transition from college competitions to the grandeur of international athletics might be daunting for some, but for Akins, it’s a natural progression of her unyielding ambition.

Since moving across the country to team up with Brooks Beast, Akins has surpassed her expectations, like breaking two minutes and winning the US Indoor and Outdoor titles in her signature event.  an event that is hotly contested by the likes of U.S. superstars Raevyn Rogers, Athing Mu, and more. 

Nia Atkins wins 800m, Alie Wilson, silver, Kaela Edwards, bronze, all PBs in 800m final! photo by Kevin Morris, all rights reserved.

In 2021, Akins had fallen at the final 200-meter mark at the USA outdoor championships. In 2022, she hadn’t made it out of the semifinals. It felt like a huge disappointment at that time, but she’s been able to weather the storm to build a fine string of results in 2023 so far. 

In the cauldron of competition, Nia Akins’ journey is a testament to the essence of sportsmanship: the ability to rise above challenges, to channel determination into results, and to prove that the human spirit knows no bounds. As the countdown to the World Championships in Budapest ticks away, the world holds its breath in anticipation, ready to witness the unfurling of a story that transcends the race, a story of a young woman chasing her dreams and leaving an indelible mark on the world of athletics.

Akins will compete in the world championships, beginning with the women’s 800 heats on Aug. 23 in Budapest, Hungary. Mu, the reigning U.S. and Olympic champ, leads a list of formidable contenders. But she’s thrust herself into the conversation.

Nia Atkins wins first title! 2023 USATF Indoor Track & Field Championship
Albuquerque, New Mexico 2023-02-17
photo credit: © 2023 Kevin Morris

Akins goes into Budapest, ranked 22nd in the world. Alongside Mu, Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson has been in brilliant form and is the world’s fastest woman this season. There is also Kenya’s Mary Moora, the Commonwealth Games Champion. Also, Rogers, the silver medallist from Doha, boasts a season’s best of 1:58.98, and Kaela Edwards (2:00.02) will be in contention.

“She continues to get better and better,” said Don Jones, the former track coach at Rando Bernardo. “It’s crazy thinking what she’ll run in Budapest. It’s going to be much faster, just the competition. “How she does at worlds this year is a tell-tale to see where she might be for the Olympics.”