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Newton's Kijana Knights wants to use track success to prepare for service to country
Newton distance runner Kijana Knights stumbled into his high school track career but is planning on making sure strides from here on. - photo by Gabriel Stovall

COVINGTON, Ga. — Kijana Knights would probably like to find whoever was responsible for determining he wasn’t good enough to make the basketball team, and thank them. 

What may have felt like failure and rejection for Knights, a sophomore on the Newton track and field and cross country teams, actually paved the way for greater success and accolades. 

Knights was recently named the Positive Athletes Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year for South Metro Atlanta. The award, given by Positive Athletes Georgia, takes into account both academic and athletic prowess. 

Knights submitted his resume, which highlights a 3.83 grade point average and an aspiration to attend Army West Point to run track and prepare for a career in military service, and it apparently caught the selection committee’s attention. 

“They must’ve seen that I was good both on the track and in the classroom to give me the award,” Knights said. “It felt good. I feel like it’s validation of the work I’ve put in the past two years that I’ve been in high school.” 

Knights launched his track career after a failed basketball tryout — something he now says was a positive in retrospect. 

“At first I didn’t make the basketball team, but I was still running just to get fit,” Knights said. “I was doing two miles everyday during the time of tryouts. But when I didn’t make it, I was thinking that I’m already running a lot, so I should be able to do track.” 

For the Rams’ track team, Knights runs the 3200, 1600 and 800 meters. So far his personal bests include a time of 5:20 in the mile and 12:15 in the 3200. And to be sure, he’s not planning to make a comeback attempt at trying out for the hoops squad. 

He’s found a home on the track that he believes will prepare him for even more. 

“I’m planning to do track for all four years I’m in high school,” he said. “And hopefully I’ll be able to attend Army West Point to run track there as well.” 

But it’s not just about athletics for him. Knights said he wants to major in civil engineering and be an armor officer in the Army. He has a passion to serve his country that’s been passed on from his parents Herlene and Ronald Knights. 

“My mom and dad came to this country as immigrants from Guyana, South America around 1986,” Knights said. “And just to see how this country has helped them, it inspires me to want to give back to this country in that way. From what they told me, it was hard back in that time for them to get into this country. And a lot of things had to happen between then and now for me to be where I’m at.” 

And Knights isn’t about to take any of it for granted.

“My parents had to work hard,” he said. “And to see what they’ve accomplished makes me grateful to live in this country. Here, you have the freedom to do what you want. The freedoms we have in this country, a lot of other countries don’t have. You can choose what you want to do and where you want to go in life.” 

For Knights, that destination includes him being the best student-athlete he possibly can, which leaves time for little else. 

“Besides school and track, I like to play video games sometimes,” he said. “But mostly running takes up all my time. I’m running like four 10-mile runs and 12-mile runs every week. And then cross country starts as soon as school starts, so it’s a year-round thing. But I love what I do.”