Akins and Burns named Missouri Gatorade POY

Juniors had All-Time Great Seasons

After breaking state records and proving they are among the country's best, Zaya Akins and Connor Burns have been named the Gatorade High School Missouri Girls and Boys Track and Field Players of the Year.

Gatorade accepts nominations and annually awards Player of the Year honors to one athlete, in currently twelve sports in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The criteria used to determine winners include Athletic Excellence, Academic Achievement, and Character. Each of the 51 winners then become eligible for the National Player of the Year Award.  Gatorade began honoring athletes in the 1985-86 school year and four of the 12 sports it hands out awards for are Girls Cross Country, Boys Cross Country, Girls Track and Field, and Boys Track and Field.

Zaya Akins is having one of the best seasons for a Missouri sprinter ever, regardless of age or level of competition. The Raytown South High School junior capped her indoor track open/club season by winning the NSAF Nike Indoor Nationals 400-meter title in New York on March 12. The Kansas City metro native's time of 53.26-seconds was the fastest time ever for a Missouri High School girl.

Raytown South junior Zaya Akins set state records in the 200 and 400-meters, and ran the fastest 100-meters ever, though it was wind-aided.

Then came the outdoor season where she clocked lots of sub-11, sub-24, and sub-55-seconds performances. At the Blue Springs Gary Parker Invitational in late April, Akins ran 53.06 for 400-meters. That moved her past Berkeley great Alishea Usery to the top of the Missouri High School outdoor All-Time performance list.

Akins followed that up about two hours later with a hand-timed 22.94 200-meter dash. With the rule of thumb of adding .24-seconds to hand-timed performance versus an automatic timing result, even 23.18-seconds put Akins on top of the All-Time Missouri prep list, surpassing fellow Kansas Citian Anglerne Annelus and her out of school season Missouri record of 23.30 at the USATF National Junior Olympic Games in 2015, or any of the other best school season marks by others.

Akins continued to tear up tracks in the metro Kansas City area. A week after Blue Springs, she ran 11.42 and 23.20 in the 100 and 200 at the Rockhurst Al Davis-Mike Lillis Invitational. 

At the State meet, Akins cruised in the 100 and 400-meter preliminaries. In the 200-meter preliminary, she pulled up and didn't finish. She returned to the Dennis and Robert Licklider Track on Day 2 of the meet at Jefferson City High School and shined. She ran 11.32 to win the Class 4 100-meter dash. It was the fastest time ever for a Missourian according to the Missouri MileSplit database. The wind was a bit too strong behind her for a state meet record however, measuring at 2.5-meters/second, over the limit of 2.0.

In the 400-meter final, Akins did get the meet record, running 53.41 to break Montenea Roye's (Ladue) Class 4 mark of 53.84 and Alishea Usery's (Berkeley) 53.55 overall meet record.