ORANGE BEACH — With Claire Atkins’ signature on her National Letter of Intent during Wednesday’s ceremony, Orange Beach High School had its first cross country signee after the …
ORANGE BEACH — With Claire Atkins’ signature on her National Letter of Intent during Wednesday’s ceremony, Orange Beach High School had its first cross country signee after the Makos’ first state qualifier cemented her commitment to the University of Mobile.
She marked another Orange Beach athlete to be the first from her sport to ascend to the college ranks but knew she certainly won’t be the last.
“It feels cool. We're the first graduating class of the city school system which is really neat, but it's really nice to be one of the first representatives and be that leader for other people,” Atkins said after the Jan. 18 ceremony. “I hope it inspires other people to want to reach out and pursue collegiate athletics because I'm very excited and I know other people would love that adventure too.”
Although she still has a spring track season to finish, Atkins has compiled a decorated running career with the Makos which includes state qualifications in all three of her cross country seasons. She’s also qualified for state in both of her outdoor track seasons so far and has a chance at another trifecta this spring.
Atkins said the biggest takeaway from her career, however, was the relationships she made along the way.
“It's been very reflective, very exciting and fun-filled,” Atkins said of her career. “I've had a really great time and I've developed some great relationships along the way. It's been really fun.”
Still, her name is a frequent flyer in the record books of Orange Beach High School according to athletic.net.
On the cross country circuit, Atkins’ 5K personal record of 22:04.6 set at the Daphne Invitational Sept. 24, 2022, ranks fourth all-time. In the outdoor track arena, Atkins owns the top times in the 800-meter run (3:01.45), 1600-meter run (6:10.83) and 3200-meter run (14:10.20).
More personal records are in her sights for the upcoming outdoor track season and she hopes to end her career on a high note off the track as well.
“I just am hoping for a PR, always aiming for a personal record, but I just want this to be the season where I give it all I got and just go out with a bang,” Atkins said.
When she does hang up her Mako spikes, the Mobile Rams will be right around the corner to give her an extension on her running career as well as all the new opportunities that college presents.
“I looked at a couple of schools around the area, I did want to stay close to home so that's the perfect location,” Atkins said of why she chose Mobile. “I've grown up a Christian and I love the Christian morals and values there. It's just a small school feel, and I just liked the way I felt very welcomed by the school and I'm very excited to be running alongside some teammates who have already reached out to me.”
Similarly, she most looked forward to developing relationships with her college teammates as she did in Orange Beach.
“I'm very excited about the relationships I'm going to form. I've already met so many great people there and it's just such a great atmosphere so I'm very excited for that experience,” Atkins said.
Before then, she was able to celebrate her achievement with the friends, family and coaches that helped her reach this point.
“It's very cool and I'm very thankful for everyone,” Atkins said. “It's so cool to watch so many years of my life and generations of people come out and support me. It's been really nice.”