The Track Knoxville coaching duo of Tyangela Sanders and Charles Ryan claim that their program is dedicated to maximizing talent and delivering their athletes into college programs. Well so far so good, as all four Track Knoxville seniors are off to college.
Bearden High School standout, State Champion, and 2006 Nike All-American Thomas "Jay" Oatts has signed a letter of intent to Georgia Tech University where he plans to study engineering. Oatts was the TSSAA State Champion in the 300m hurdles and the 4x400m relay. After his triumph at the state he went on to win the 300m hurdle title at the Great Southwest Classic. Oatts finished his season capturing the bronze medal and High School All-American status at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in the 400m hurdles (52.76). "Jay's transition from a local talent to and All-American is a tribute to his dedication and work ethic" said Charles Ryan, Track Knoxville's Co-head Coach. "Jay has continued to surprise himself all year, he is just now realizing his potential and we cannot wait to see him in the ACC." Oatts passed up offers from Nebraska, Okalahoma, Houston, Wake Forest, Mississippi State and Tennessee to attend his first choice, Georgia Tech. "Tech was the best overall fit for Jay, academically and on the track" said Tyangela Sanders.
Another Bearden State Champion, Nathan Grace, is off to school this fall. Grace a state finalist in both the 200m and 400m sprints has turned down his offers from numerous universities to become a recruited walk-on for the University of Tennessee. The Vols, a SEC perennial powerhouse were a little surprised to learn that Grace wanted to walk on. "Coach Elliot (UT Men's sprint coach) was pleasantly surprised when we told him" said Ryan, "Nathan had some offers on the table but in the end he wanted to be a Vol." When asked about grace's decision to walk on at her alma mater Sanders had this to say, "I think it's great, UT will offer him the most exposure and the best coaching environment he could get."
One Track Knoxville athlete you may not be so familiar with is Nikolsha Scott of West High School. A basketball player for her first three years at West, Scott decided to make the transition to track this spring, and what a good decision it turned out to be. Scott was a state finalist in the 100m dash, ran second leg of the State Champion 4x200m relay team and helped West High School capture their first team title ever. Scott is planning to accept an offer to attend Kentucky State University in January of 2007.
The Final member of this Track Knoxville 2006 class is Brandon Gray of Memphis. This season, representing Cordova High School, Gray won the 400m State Championship. He capped his season with a forth place finish at the USATF Junior Olympics held last week in Baltimore, MD (47.56). Gray has chosen to go the Junior college route and is planning to attend Barton County Community College (Kansas) in the fall. "You cannot do any better than Barton County when you're talking junior college track and field, it's a good fit for Brandon, and he should do very well there" said Ryan. "Though we had very little to do with his training it was our pleasure to help him this summer and were happy to see him land in a good place" said Sanders. Barton County has birthed the college carriers of numerous Olympians and NCAA All-Americans such as Bernard Williams (USA) Aleen Bailey (Jamaica) and Veronica Campbell (Jamaica).
In all, at the conclusion of their first year out on their own, Tyangela Sanders and Charles Ryan, co-founders of Track Knoxville, delivered their promise to the athletes in which they train. Their athletes defiantly maximized their talent, capturing a National Title, 7 State titles, and 2 All-American awards. However, what seems to be the most important stat of all is that Track Knoxville landed 100% of their graduates into college, not bad for a years work. And with the bulk of their talent returning to high school this season, I for one cannot wait to see what is yet to come.