Atkins, Cleare named to NAIA Hall of FameDerrick Atkins and Aaron Cleare arrived at Dickinson State as unknown sprinters from the Bahamas in 2002.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Derrick Atkins and Aaron Cleare arrived at Dickinson State as unknown sprinters from the Bahamas in 2002.
“They came in that year, the spring of 2002 and a lot of people didn’t know what to expect,” DSU head track and field coach Pete Stanton said.
By the time their track and field careers had ended, the Blue Hawk men’s track and field had won three National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championships and established itself as an elite program.
On Wednesday, Atkins and Cleare — two of the most decorated athletes in DSU history — were announced as the newest inductees into the NAIA Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held during the NAIA outdoor track and field national championships on May 22, 2013, in Marion, Ind.
Atkins won seven total NAIA titles, including three outdoor titles in the 100 meters and two in the 200 to go along with a pair of indoor championships in the 60 meters.
He went on to take a silver medal in the 100 at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan, and compete in both the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. He holds the Bahamas national record in the 100 meters.
Cleare was the first man to win four NAIA outdoor 400 meters titles and was DSU’s first athlete to complete at the Olympics.
He was a member of the Bahamas 1,600-meter relay team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
But before any of either man had international success, they set the DSU track and field program for it.
Stanton said a simple Dakota Athletic Conference title win in 2002 — the team’s first since 1969 — said put the program on course for greatness.
The Blue Hawks went on to win NAIA national championships in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Cleare was a member of all three teams. Atkins competed on the 2004 and 2005 teams.
“It just took off from there,” Stanton said. “What they did was they paved the way for other athletes from the Bahamas, athletes from Jamaica, or Killdeer, whoever, that were able to follow them and saw the success they were having.”
Stanton said he hopes Atkins and Cleare are only the first of the Hall of Fame inductees to come from the DSU track and field program.
“Certainly we have others, down the road, that will possibly be able to follow — three or four from the teams who were multi-national champs,” Stanton said. “It’s obvious that these two guys are in there because they are very deserving.”
Neither Atkins nor Cleare were available for comment.