GAC training facility named for deceased student

NORCROSS - Greater Atlanta Christian School has broken ground on a $1.5-million athletic training center that will be named in honor of a ninth-grade student who died in a car accident nearly two years ago, a school spokeswoman said.

The Naik Athletic Training Center is funded in part through a major gift from Shanil Naik's parents, Ramesh and Manju, said Jill Morris, GAC's community relations director. Shanil, who played baseball and football, had attended the private school since kindergarten and would have graduated in 2009.

"He was just the sweetest boy," Morris said. "Everyone loved him. ... He will always be a part of Greater Atlanta Christian School."

The 12,500-square-foot, two-story building will be a place where students can focus on training, conditioning, speed and agility, Morris said. The building will be equipped with 10 weight stations, indoor turf for training drills, batting stations and a pitcher's mound. There will be room for 48 students to work out simultaneously.

"This is going to be unbelievable for us," Athletic Director Tim Vick said. "It gives us the opportunity to expand our programs in ways we never have before."

The students will have the opportunity to train under the tutelage of Gary Shofield, a nationally certified athletic trainer who will begin work at GAC in June, Morris said.

Shofield has 15 years of experience, including eight years of owning and operating a training business. He was the director of outpatient rehabilitation for Eastside Medical Center and has worked as an assistant for the Atlanta Hawks and coach of the Georgia Force. He has worked with amateur, professional, recreational and Olympic athletes, Morris said.

This will be the second athletic facility to open at GAC this year. The Freeman Aquatic Center opened in January.

"The Greater Atlanta Christian program and campus has exploded with progress over the last decade," President David Fincher said. "I'm particularly pleased about the coming training center because it will touch every athlete and advance every program."