New Jersey native Anthony Acklin grew up dreaming of being a chef before he got on track. His earliest sports memory is racing his mother down a hill at a family picnic in grade school. That’s when he became interested in running.
Today, he is in his fourth season as the assistant sprinter coach for the University of Mississippi Track and Field Team.
Athletes often aspire to compete in a Division 1 program, but not all have the opportunity initially. Some choose junior colleges to work on their grades and mature.
Acklin began his track career at a junior college in Chanute, Kansas. He later transferred to Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama. After graduating, he transferred to Southern Illinois University – Carbondale.
“I chose the best school with the best coaches and environment,” he said, “and I knew it was a great choice for me because it wasn’t too big or too small. Make sure you do your research and know what you want.”
Track and field motivated him to finish school. “I knew I wanted to continue running, and I had to go to college,” he said, “so I looked at it as an opportunity for academics and sports.”
When his former sprint coach at SIU needed extra help coaching sprinters, Acklin volunteered. During his junior year at age 21, he decided to become a coach. Although he remained optimistic of running professionally, he was offered a job at SIU coaching after graduation.
When he arrived at the University of Mississippi, he faced challenges with athletes. Although he felt he could prepare them for greatness, some were not receptive.
Jolie Carbo, a track and field athlete, graduated last fall and pursued her dreams of running professionally. The 400 sprinter now oversees, mentors and coaches alongside Acklin.
“Trusting your coach is the best thing any athlete can do,” she said.
Acklin said college athletes must be self-disciplined. “You must know why you want to do it and keep that focus every day,” he said. “Do not expect things to come easy and to be handed to you, but most importantly, do your own research and work.”