NRHS track nets All-Americans

Published 10:39 pm Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nansemond River High School’s Kara Lyles, Zakiya Rashid, Brandeé Johnson and Mia McClain placed sixth in the 4x55-meter shuttle hurdle relay at the New Balance Indoor High School Nationals.

Nansemond River High School’s Kara Lyles, Zakiya Rashid, Brandeé Johnson and Mia McClain placed sixth in the 4×55-meter shuttle hurdle relay at the New Balance Indoor High School Nationals.

Nansemond River High School brought its largest group of qualifiers ever to the New Balance Indoor High School Nationals in New York City and came home with multiple All-Americans.

There were 11 female and five male representatives for the Warriors last weekend.

“I think that has really helped put Nansemond River on the map,” Warriors coach Justin Byron said.

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New Balance High School All-American status was bestowed upon athletes who placed in the top six of an event at the highest level of competition, the Championship section.

Sophomore Brandeé Johnson placed fifth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.5 seconds.

She was also part of the shuttle hurdle relay that placed sixth, also featuring senior Mia McClain and juniors Kara Lyles and Zakiya Rashid.

“That was huge for them, since they’ve only been hurdling for about three months now,” Byron said.

Lyles placed 13th in the 400-meter dash with a time of 56.44 seconds.

“I just continue to shake my head at her improvement,” Byron said. He noted last year at nationals, she ran the same event in a minute and two seconds. “She is just flying down.”

Rashid placed 16th out of 40 in the shot put.

Byron said she had a big throw that she fouled, leading to her lower placement, but he highlighted the level she has reached.

“Fifteen girls beat you at nationals,” he said. “That’s nothing to (hang) your head about.”

He placed several Nansemond River athletes in events at nationals in the Emerging Elite section. It is a slightly less elite field than the Championship level, but he noted the qualifying standards for any level at nationals are still incredibly high.

Knowing that his 4×200-meter relay team lacked the firepower it had last year, Byron opted to run it at the Emerging Elite level and gave freshman Kiara Howard the opportunity to run with alumni from last year’s team, Johnson, Lyles and McClain.

Byron said, for Howard, this was “pretty much her first year running track.”

“They ended up taking second in the emerging elite competition,” he said, with a time of 1:42.17.

At that point on Friday, it was the No. 1 time in Virginia. Phoebus High School and Western Branch High School managed to eclipse it the next day at the Championship level.

Senior Kara Dixon, juniors Candice and Courtney James and freshman Karah Foster made up the Emerging Elite 4×400-meter relay team and placed in the top 30 out of 40 teams.

“For those athletes, it was just great for the experience,” Byron said, and for Dixon, being a senior, “It was just great for her to be able to run at a national meet.”

Mia McClain ran in the EE 60-meter hurdles and placed 33rd out of 58.

For the boys, junior Kadeem Middleton finished 20th out of 44 in the 200-meter dash at the Emerging Elite level, and he did it with an indoor personal record of 22.90 seconds.

The boys’ EE 4×200-meter relay team, including seniors Airrin Davis and Malcolm Sheppard, junior Xavier Williams and sophomore Terrence Lambert placed 40th out of 68 teams.

Davis is traditionally one of the Warriors’ long distance runners, but Byron said, “I really wanted him to get a run in at the meet, so he anchored the 4×200.”