NRHS girls’ track team looks for national titlePublished 8:39pm Saturday, March 2, 2013
The Nansemond River girls’ 4×200-meter relay team earned a Player of the Week nomination by winning the state championship with a time of 1:41.87, more than two seconds better than its previous best time.
Then group, which includes senior Kieaira Middleton, junior Mia McClain, sophomore Kara Lyles and freshman Brandee Johnson, shattered the Suffolk News-Herald’s previous record for highest vote tally by more than a thousand votes, winning the poll last week with a total of 2,037 votes.
The Lakeland girls’ 4×800-meter relay team made an impressive challenge with 1,707 votes, as well.
The four members of Nansemond River’s team shared what winning the state championship meant to them.
“It meant a lot, because the night before, I was so, ‘I’m the senior I have to bring it on for my team. I can’t let my team down,’” Middleston said, who ran the anchor leg of the race. “It just felt like a whole bunch of pressure was released after I passed the finish line, because I guess I was just running scared, for my life.”
“It meant that all of our hard work had paid off,” McClain said.
“It actually came into reality, because it was like, ‘OK, yeah we did good at districts, yeah we did pretty decent at regionals,’ but it’s like, ‘States? Like, in the state? Come on, now!’” McClain said.
“We did what we’re supposed to do,” Lyles said.
Johnson said that it “means that when we go further on to outdoor and then to nationals.”
“It just means a lot because me knowing that I can do something as a team, tells me that I can do something as an individual,” she added.
McClain thanked the many coaches, including Justin Byron, who help guide the team. She also alluded to the adversity the team faced this season with injuries that prompted an article referring to them as the “Wounded Warriors.” She responded to it by thanking athletic trainer Yuko Kimura-Koenig.
“She’s a big factor,” McClain said. “She’s the one that helped the ‘Wounded Warriors’ get unwounded.”
Middleton and McClain gave some insight into what they had to give up, specifically around championship time, to help create Nansemond River’s first state champion relay team in school history.
“Bread,” McClain said.
“Sweets,” Middleton added. “I love oatmeal pies. I love sweets. Oh, fast food. Gave that up.”
“Lots and lots of time,’ McClain continued.
Middleton said when most people are hanging out with their friends, “we’re at practice.” The girls missed a lot of big basketball games.
“We’re so close as a family, off and on the track, and then we spend so much time together. We’ll get home late, but it’s all worth it,” Johnson said.
“Ice baths are terrible,” McClain said, referring to the challenging process designed to care for an athlete’s muscles.
Coach Byron also has the girls refrain from any sort of Internet usage in the weeks surrounding a championship meet, to avoid distractions.
McClain has been in track the longest, since third grade with the Amateur Athletic Union.
Middleton started in ninth grade, but noticed her ability before then.
“When I was younger I would run outside against the boys and stuff and I noticed I was abnormally faster than them,” she said. “My dad used to tease people. He just used to get me outside to race people. Like, ‘My daughter could race your son,’ and pay me after I race them.”
Johnson began running in sixth grade.
“That’s when I started going through my family’s background and my mom, my grandmother all did track, and I thought I’ll keep it going. That’s when I fell in love with it, and then I started doing AAU, and I started doing high school,” she said.
“This is my first year (of) indoor,” Lyles said. “I ran track when I was younger, but not for too long.”
Now in her fourth year, she has followed through on her motivation to join Warriors track star and state champion James Taylor on the wall at school. Learning she would have to win at states, she remembered thinking, “‘That’s going to be a lot of hard work,’ but we did it.”
The team currently has the 10th best time in the nation and will be competing at a national competition next weekend in New York City, seeking to earn the title of All-American and potentially, national champion.
Following are this week’s Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week nominees:
- Jessica Pieroni, junior guard for Nansemond-Suffolk basketball — As she has done for the majority of the season, she led her team in scoring last Tuesday, putting up 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor in the first state-level win for the school’s girls’ basketball program. Despite the season-ending loss to Norfolk Christian in the second round, she still led her team with 13 points.
- Donté Ralph, senior forward for King’s Fork basketball — In the Kecoughtan game in which rebounds were hard to come by for the Bulldogs, he led his team, despite limited minutes. He continued to provide a powerful presence under the hoop as he did during the regular season, contributing to a senior nucleus that grew up together and fueled the success of this year’s team.
- Akanni White, senior point guard for King’s Fork basketball — Though the Bulldogs’ season ended against Kecoughtan, he was a key contributor who helped keep his team in the game. He was one of three Bulldogs in double figures with 11 points to go with two steals, capping off a season in which he proved a valuable ball handler in a starting lineup that helped put a banner on the wall via the district tournament championship win.
Vote by 7 p.m. Wednesday by sending an email with the subject “Player of the Week” to email@example.com. You can also vote on our Facebook page and on the Suffolk News-Herald homepage.
Next Sunday, we’ll feature the readers’ choice in a story on the sports page.
Spread the word.