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Former Niles star Clinkscale transfers to Auburn after standout freshman season at Dayton

Submitted photo / Atlantic 10. Former Niles standout Chante’ Clinkscale (middle) runs a race at George Mason University during her freshman year at Dayton University. Clinkscale has since transferred to Auburm where she’s hoping to compete against some of the best sprinters in the country.

In her freshman season at Dayton, Chante’ Clinkscale racked up a career’s worth of accolades in a year.

She won the 60m and the 200m at the Atlantic 10 Indoor Championships, while also being named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team and the Most Outstanding Rookie Performer at the conference meet. Then, during the outdoor season she won the 100m at the A-10 Championships and was again named Most Outstanding Rookie Performer.

Now, as a sophomore, she’s on to her next challenge.

This past summer, the Niles alum transferred to Auburn, an SEC school, hoping to compete against the best sprinters that college track has to offer.

“I wanted more for myself, but I also wanted more competition — I wanted more than just the Atlantic 10,” Clinkscale said. “When I actually got a call from Auburn, I looked at it and thought, well, it’s the SEC. I was willing to do whatever it takes and work hard because I know this conference is not easy. But I’m up for the challenge.”

At Auburn, Clinkscale will have the opportunity to learn from first-year head coach Leroy Burrell, who took over the Tigers program this offseason after coaching 23 years at Houston. Burrell is a former Olympic gold medalist and was a two-time world record holder in the 100m.

With her success, Clinkscale had no shortage of offers when she put her name in the transfer portal, but Auburn stood out to her in more ways than one.

“I actually had a lot of schools, from every conference, (reach out),” Clinkscale said. “Auburn just caught my eye and felt like home when I was able to take a visit down (there). All the coaches, the atmosphere itself — despite all the other schools, right when I touched campus, I felt like I was home.”

Auburn just wrapped up cross country season, so the indoor track and field season for Clinkscale hasn’t begun yet. Clinkscale will make her debut for the Tigers at the Wisconsin-Oshkosh Early Bird meet on Dec. 10.

“I’m just preparing for upcoming competitions,” Clinkscale said. “It’s different because we do a lot of (offseason) work down here. I just feel like I have the opportunity to get better because I have a lot of people surrounding me that want to (compete) to be on the same level or even better than me.”

Now that she’s on a bigger stage, Clinkscale has several goals for herself that she’s striving to achieve. First and foremost, however, she wants to stay healthy so that she can chase those goals.

“I want to be able to make it to nationals and then shock a lot of people,” Clinkscale said. “Those are my main goals for the indoor and outdoor season. It feels like there’s a lot of naysayers who don’t think I belong in the SEC, but when it comes time to shock and prove everyone wrong, time will tell.”

Clinkscale’s freshman season at Dayton ended at the NCAA East Preliminaries in Indiana, where she finished seventh in her heat in the 100m and 35th overall — a far cry from high school, where she was a two-time All-American, six-time All-Ohio honoree, a five-time state champion and owned school records in three events upon her graduation.

“Just running in college in general, you learn that everyone around you is fast,” Clinkscale said. “It’s not like high school where you can go to one meet and win it all. In college, you’re fighting for a position to place each meet, and I think being at Dayton my first year taught me so much. It made me the person I am today, which is strong.”

But Clinkscale knows that in order to be the best, she has to compete against and beat the best, which is why she transferred to Auburn in the first place.

“Despite not making it to nationals, it took a lot of steps and preparation for me to get to regionals,” Clinkscale said. “To make it out of regionals and make it to nationals, you just have to focus on the things you did well at each meet so you can get better and make it to the next steps.”

nmadhavan@tribtoday.com

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