Even after graduating in 2020, Penn alumna and track star Nia Akins still finds success and fame in the track and field world.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Akins was announced as one of 10 recipients of the NCAA's prestigious Today's Top 10 Award. The Today's Top 10 Award acknowledges graduated athletes for their achievements on and off the field. This distinction has grown immensely over the years, going from Today's Top V in 1973 to Today's Top 10 in 2013. The honorees are chosen by the NCAA Honors Committee, made up of representatives of NCAA member schools, conferences, and prominent citizens, including past awardees.
As the first Quaker and 12th Ivy League athlete to receive the Today's Top 10 Award, Akins is no stranger to receiving such recognition.
A two-year captain of the team, Akins was a runner-up in the 800-meter run at the indoor and outdoor NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships in 2019. She was also a finalist for the 2020 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Women's Track Athlete of the Year. Additionally, she was recognized as the 2020 USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Track Athlete of the Year for the indoor season.
Akins has not only made a name for herself in the track and field world — but her talent has also won accolades for Penn.
Akins will go down in Penn's history with her two conference records, eight school records, and participation in three consecutive Ivy League Heptagonal Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships.
In February, Akins ran 2:00.71, the second-fastest time in the 800 meters in women's collegiate history. She was given Pennsylvania's 2020 Association of Alumnae Fathers' Trophy for her athletics, academics, and leadership achievements and earned second-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 2020.
While Akins was a track star on the field, she was also a scholar off of it. Akins graduated cum laude from the Pennsylvania School of Nursing in 2020 and was a four-time recipient of USTFCCCA All-Academic honors. Akins was a member of the Sphinx Senior Society, Penn's oldest honor society, and served three years as a peer advisor for Student Nurses at Penn. In addition, Akins was a two-year member of Young Quakers Community Athletics, in which her primary role was to mentor students in the West Philadelphia community. Currently, she is continuing her track journey as a professional runner with the Brooks Beasts training group.
Despite the numerous track awards Akins has won in her four years at Penn, she was still humbled to be one of 10 recipients for the Top 10 Award.
"There is a lot of pride in being a student-athlete at Penn, because we know we are a member of one of the best academic institutions as well as an NCAA Division I athlete," Akins said. "It is always nice to be acknowledged for my hard work, but to receive this NCAA Today's Top 10 Award and represent this class of amazing student-athletes speaks more to the potential of this group at large and what an environment full of opportunities can do for you if you choose to take them."
As Akins has left her mark on Franklin Field, she also hopes to leave her mark outside of Penn. Getting involved with her community is one way Akins has taken what she's learned from her experience as a Quaker and applied it to help others. Although Akins is moving on to greater things, neither she nor Penn will ever forget her contributions to the Red and Blue.