Warriors win four state titles in track and field
Published 9:52 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Nansemond River High School’s athletes ensured that their school became known as a force at the Virginia High School League Group 4A state indoor track and field championships at Liberty University.
More than one of the Warriors fell to the ground after finishing a race, but not because they were ill.
“They were literally leaving it all on the track to the point that they had nothing left,” NR coach Justin Byron said, and this kind of effort yielded four state titles.
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Sophomore Brandee Johnson won the 300-meter dash with a time of 39.06 seconds and was a member of the girls’ 4×400-meter relay team that won with a time of 4:02.66. Junior Zakiya Rashid won the shot put with throw of 43-feet-7.5-inches, six feet further than her nearest competitor, and junior Kara Lyles took first in the 500-meter dash with a time of 1:16.04.
The Nansemond River girls’ team came very close to winning a team state title, losing out by only 2.5 points to E.C. Glass High School.
Byron said they would have loved to bring that award home, but the narrow loss did nothing to shake the pride he had in his athletes.
“I couldn’t even put into words how excited I was, and not even the results, just the hard work,” he said.
He praised Johnson for her patience with the training and her coaches.
“She really had the meet of her dreams,” he said. “Even though she didn’t win the 500, she ran very well out of the slower section.”
Johnson finished third in the 500 and second in the triple jump.
“Her focus of the year was that 300,” Byron said.
He added that her winning time in that event ranked ninth in the nation, first in the nation on a flat track and seventh all-time in Virginia, according to Milestat.com.
Though tired from events earlier in the day, she ran her second-fastest time ever in the 4×400-meter relay. Together with seniors Kara Dixon and Mia McClain and junior Candice James, the team produced a time more than three and a half seconds better than the previous best time in the state this year.
“I don’t think anyone except those four girls believed they were going to run that fast at the end of the meet,” Byron said.
He described the meet Kara Lyles and Johnson had as amazing.
“Her and Brandee both scored 25 points apiece,” he said.
In addition to winning the 500, Lyles finished third in the high jump, fourth in the 55-meter dash and fifth in the long jump.
Like Johnson with the 300, Lyles knew from the beginning of the year that her primary event to train for would be the 500. Also like Johnson, she showed patience during her training as Saturday was only her third time running her main event this season.
“It was a close race,” Lyles said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew I couldn’t back down. I had trained way too hard for this.”
The second and third place finishers were less than a second behind her, and she said she never really fell into a rhythm but instead kept pushing the whole way.
“I knew God was with me,” she said. “It had to be something supernaturally carrying me around that track.”
Byron highlighted the maturity that Zakiya Rashid showed en route to winning the shot put.
“I think that this was her best season that she put together as far as remaining consistent,” he said, as she kept her throws over 42 feet down the stretch this season.
She also placed third in the 55-meter hurdles and eighth in the triple jump.
Mia McClain took seventh in the 55-meter dash and eighth in the 55 hurdles.
For Nansemond River’s boys’ team, junior Kadeem Middleton placed third in the 300-meter dash, the 4×200-meter relay team took fourth and the 4×800-meter relay team took sixth.
King’s Fork High School achieved some high finishes from both its girls’ and boys’ teams. The girls’ 4×200-meter relay team placed second while senior Andrew Gould took third in the 500-meter dash.
Also, senior Gabrielle Snipes finished fifth in the 55-meter dash and junior Hannah Hinson took eighth in the shot put.
For Lakeland High School, senior Khadijah Clouden placed highest individually, placing seventh in the triple jump. She was also part of the 4×200 team that took seventh, while the boys’ 4×200 team took ninth.
The school’s talented girls’ 4×800-meter relay team, including seniors Alexis and Jamee Albright, Alexus Copeland and Kristen Vick, placed 12th. They were able to race at all because the Albrights and Vick made a special trip from Richmond, where they were in the midst of participating in a national field hockey tournament.