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Younne Reid, SUNO Track & Field

2019 Eddie Robinson Award

Photo by Rod Walker for The Advocate.

Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO) has a long tradition of success in track and field, however, as state funding for education has dwindled, SUNO resources have taken a major hit. The Knights likely have the least funding in the state and the campus’ track and field facilities are non-existent. To practice, the team makes use of City Park’s public track facility, often arriving at 4:30 a.m. to avoid the casual walkers and joggers. While the athletics department has a “weight room,” it’s probably better described as a room with weights. The women’s track and field team includes eight competitors and the men’s team has 10 individuals. Many top schools competing at the NAIA level regularly field track teams with 50 or more competitors.

Despite the significant challenges within the program, Younne Anthony Reid, a native of St. Ann, Jamaica, took over as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s track and field team’s in 2017 after eight years as an assistant.

In two years at the helm of the program, he has guided the Knights to nine individual NAIA national championships, five relay national titles and the 2018 NAIA Women’s Track and Field Outdoor Championship. His 2019 women’s team earned national runner-up finishes at both the NAIA Indoor and Outdoor Championships.

“We work with what we have,” he said simply.

This year’s runner-up finishes came at the hands of British Columbia (outdoor) and Wayland Baptist (indoor). British Columbia featured 37 athletes on its roster while Wayland Baptist fielded a team of 16 athletes.

Reid’s ability to coax tremendous success from his teams despite the program’s challenges led the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee to recognize him as the 2019 recipient of its Eddie Robinson Award.

One of Reid’s stars, Kimona Smikle, has won back-to-back national championships in the 400-meter hurdles. A native of Jamaica like Reid, she hasn’t been bothered by the school’s lack of resources.

“The institution, yeah it could have more,” Smikle said. “But it didn’t bother me that much because the high school I came from, we didn’t have much either.”

Reid has brought the SUNO program back to the levels of success it enjoyed under legendary coach Artis Davenport, a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame. Davenport directed the Knights to national titles in 1995 and 1997.

“He’s a legend and he set the bar here,” Reid said. “I’m happy that I was able to come in and try to continue that. But I will not be completely happy until the boys program is rubbing shoulders with the girls. Then the outside world will see what we can do here. Believe it or not, a lot of athletes don’t want to take a chance with this institution. They don’t know that this is the best-kept secret.”

The Robinson Award honor adds to an impressive list of awards for Reid – he was the NAIA national coach of the year by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in 2018 and is a two-time South Regional Coach of the Year as well.