Warrior track and field brings home honors

Published 10:24pm Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Nansemond River indoor track and field team came away from the 2013 New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York City this past weekend with All-American honors for the 4×200-meter relay team and one athlete in two individual events.

Senior Kieaira Middleton, junior Mia McClain, sophomore Kara Lyles and freshman Brandee Johnson reached a new height in the preliminary round on Saturday, topping their 1:41.87 state championship time.

“The girls bettered their time in the 4×200 by running (1:40.96) in the prelims,” Warriors coach Justin Byron said. “They didn’t run as fast in the final, but they did finish sixth place in the nation which gave them the All-American title that they had been shooting for all year.”

Byron said that the time of 1:40.96 is the fifth best time in Virginia state history, behind programs that he cited as powerhouses — Bethel, Grassfield, Landstown and Western Branch.

While he was not exceptionally happy with the slower finals time of 1:43.06, Byron acknowledged that the long bus ride to New York, early mornings and the long season may have simply been taking their toll on the girls.

He pointed out that on paper, the relay team may have not seemed destined for greatness as Middleton, who he said “was our strongest leg on paper” was battling injury, and the same for McClain, “our fastest leg on paper.” Then he added that they had “two other girls that no one’s ever heard of, a freshman and a sophomore.”

He said a coach from Pheobus High School recently summed up his impression of this group of girls this year.

“He said he looked at those times and he was amazed,” Byron said. “He said, ‘When you were at the state meet, I knew your kids could run, but not that fast.’ And I think that was kind of the feeling from a lot of other teams, but they knew that on paper, we were not a bad team, but they just exceeded a lot of people’s expectations.”

Johnson’s performance as a freshman has put the record book on notice that it may soon be re-written. She became a Freshman All-American twice over this past weekend by finishing second in the freshman 400-meter run, finishing in 57.23 seconds. The winner carried a time of 57.14 seconds.

Byron praised the 400-meter time, saying it “is impressive because that’s actually like a good outdoor time.”

In the freshman 60-meter dash, Johnson finished third with a 7.73-second time. The winner was not far ahead, finishing in 7.65 seconds.

Byron said that Johnson’s time “actually had broken the previous freshmen meet record, but two girls had run faster than her at that meet, so if those two girls weren’t there, she would have had the meet record, as well.”

Sophomore Zakiya Rashid continued to make her presence known in the shot put, placing fifth in a special “Emerging Elite” division with a throw of 39 feet and half an inch and receiving a medal.

Though this specific division means the contestants are not actually contending for a true national title, they do need to be invited and Byron said Rashid’s placement in fifth means she is the No. 10-ranked sophomore in the nation in the shot put.

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