The Sun News

She charts path from 8th-grade football team to college track

Aniya Clay, front row, second from the right, is joined by her family and Warner Robins High School track Coach Rebecca White as Clay signed her scholarship papers for Fort Valley State University.
Aniya Clay, front row, second from the right, is joined by her family and Warner Robins High School track Coach Rebecca White as Clay signed her scholarship papers for Fort Valley State University. Special to The Sun News

Five years ago, an 8th grader named Aniya Clay told this reporter during an interview that she wanted to be an inspiration to other girls.

“My advice is to never let anyone talk you down from what you want to do,” Aniya said at the time. “You have to take risks and go for the things you want. You have to work for what you want.”

And work she did – in the classroom as well as on the soccer and track fields, the basketball court and on the football field.

That’s right. The reason Aniya was being interviewed back then was that she was a member of the 8th grade football team at Huntington Middle School — a girl with enough drive and determination to participate in a sport that is predominately played by boys.

So it was no surprise to be sitting in the Warner Robins High School lunchroom July 19 to watch Aniya Clay sign an athletic scholarship with Fort Valley State University.

Aniya didn’t play football at Warner Robins High, but she did play basketball, volleyball and track. She participated in drama and DECA, babysat after school and was very active at her church, St. James CME in Perry, where she continues to sing in the choir and is a member of the praise band.

When considering her college options, Aniya first had to settle on the sport. She chose track. A sprinter for the Demons, Aniya runs the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the 4x1 relay. She was selected as Best Athlete on the track team, won the Highest Points Award and represented Warner Robins High School at the state track meet.

“I just really love track. I love the individuality of it, where you depend on yourself to get the job done,” Aniya said.

As for choosing Fort Valley State, Aniya said that was an easier decision than narrowing down what sport she wanted to play in college. “They are all so welcoming and so nice. I have family members that graduated from there and I wanted to stay close to home,” she said.

Aniya is looking forward to being able to focus on track and is confident that she will continue to improve her times.

“It is somewhat hard to transition from basketball to track. When you’re training for basketball, you use different muscles,” Aniya said.

When she arrives on campus to take her place as a Fort Valley Wildcat, Aniya says she will always be a Demon as well.

“Being a Demon means everything,” said Aniya. “When you get to Warner Robins High School and begin to understand the tradition of being a Demon, you know that you live and die by being a Demon. It is about giving it all – on the football field, on the soccer field, on the track, in every classroom. When you take a test, you give it your all, when you speak to teachers, you are respectful.

Being a Demon is about always going through everything with the purpose that you are going to be great and do great. I will take being a Demon with me to Fort Valley State.”

Alline Kent can be contacted at allinekent@cox.net.

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