After winning the 100 and 200 meters at the Five Star meet in March, Spruce Creek's Xavier Atkins missed much of the rest of his fresman season because of academics. (NJ file)
PORT ORANGE -- Xavier Atkins is making up for lost time and times.
The Spruce Creek rising sophomore won the 100 and 200 meters at the Five Star Conference meet in March, but his freshman season was cut short when he was deemed academically ineligible.
So, instead of racing for district, regional and state titles, Atkins had to focus on his academics while preparing for AAU season.
"My freshman year was all a learning experience for me," Atkins said. "I'm full with a lot of knowledge now and have learned a lot. It's like I'm a different person. I'm just focusing on my grades right now. I'm getting all of my stuff caught back up and catching up."
Atkins appears to be back on track -- literally and figuratively -- when it comes to his academics, and he has been tearing through the summer track schedule.
The six-time national AAU sprinting champion has recovered from a hip injury and has earned his way to his fourth straight AAU Junior Olympics, which run July 30 to Aug. 4 at Houston's Humble High.
For Atkins, competing on the national stage is nothing new.
He won his first national sprinting title at the age of 13 in 2009 when he swept the 100 and 200 titles at the AAU Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa. He's returned to the national stage -- and won -- every year since, and he seems poised to do it again in Houston.
At the Area 9 AAU District Qualifier on June 2 at Altamonte Springs Lake Brantley High, Atkins won the 200-meter intermediate dash for 16-year-olds by a full second with a time of 21.58 seconds.
At the Area 9 National Qualifier in Jacksonville on June 22, he won the 200 for 15- and 16-year-olds by more than half a second. He clocked a time of 21.63 in the prelims and then won it in 21.79.
And last week at the AAU Club Championships at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Atkins experienced some rare competition but emerged victorious again.
Atkins qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics with a 100-winning time of 10.68 seconds -- one-hundredth of a second off the club national mark -- but it was in the 200 where he really shined.
Atkins ran a 21.51 in the 200 prelims, second only to the national-record run of 21.25 by Ryan Clark. Atkins ran second again to Clark (21.44) in the semis with a 21.49.
In the finals, however, Atkins came through with a career-best time of 21.21 seconds, edging Clark by one-hundredth of a second to win the race and breaking Clark's club record by four-hundredths of a second.
"I just ran with competition," said Atkins, who should duel again with Clark in the 200 at the AAU Junior Olympics. "That was my first time I had competition the whole year. I've been training a little harder and am focused now."
At this pace, these performances could be a preview of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, a fact that has crossed Atkins' mind.
"I've always wanted to go to the Olympics," he said. "Of course, that's going to pump me up more for this meet. It's new people every year. This year there will be people from California, and maybe even Jamaica."