NRHS shines at Penn Relays

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Nansemond River High School's 4x400-meter relay team holds the plaque commemorating the win of their heat at the 2014 Penn Relays Carnival. From left: Zakiya Rashid, Kara Lyles, Mia McClain and Brandeé Johnson. (Toy Redding photo)

Nansemond River High School’s 4×400-meter relay team holds the plaque commemorating the win of their heat at the 2014 Penn Relays Carnival. From left: Zakiya Rashid, Kara Lyles, Mia McClain and Brandeé Johnson. (Toy Redding photo)

Nansemond River High School’s outdoor track and field team reversed its trend of misfortune at the Penn Relays Carnival with a strong team performance this past weekend in Philadelphia.

“This year was really our breakout year at the Penn Relays,” NR coach Justin Byron said.

In 2012, the event had been the setting in which former Nansemond River star athlete Shakeela Saunders tore her anterior cruciate ligament. Last year, the girls’ indoor state champion relay team executed a poor handoff that kept them out of the finals.


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This time, every female member of the Warriors and the boys’ 4×400-meter team left with medals based on high placement in various events.

The 4×400-meter relay event was organized so teams of similar speeds would compete against each other in heats to advance to the final. Nansemond River’s girls finished first in their heat with a time of 3:53.77.

“Not a bad run,” Byron said. “They ran the second-fastest time in school history.”

The time produced by junior Candice James, senior Mia McClain, sophomore Brandeé Johnson and junior Kara Lyles was not good enough to advance to the finals, however, which featured the eight fastest teams from more than 450 entries. The Lady Warriors’ team placed 18th overall.

“We left some time on the track,” Byron said. “We should have run a little faster than that.”

But Lyles still managed to produce an official split of 55.03 seconds, ranked fifth among more than 1,800 athletes that completed in the preliminaries.

The 4×400 relay events required teams to meet a qualifying time before entering. The 4×100-meter relay was open to anyone.

The girls’ 4×100 team competed in the small schools division and placed 11th during prelims with a time of 48.93 seconds. It featured the same girls from the 4×400 team, but in the finals, junior Zakiya Rashid stepped in for James. The team improved its time to 47.49 seconds, good for second. Out of more than 600 teams competing, this time placed 13th and broke a school record.

Rashid was the only Suffolk athlete at the Penn Relays to compete in an individual event. She placed fourth in the high school girls discus championship with a throw of 145-feet-7-inches.

The boys’ 4×400 team with junior Kadeem Middleton, senior Malcolm Sheppard, sophomore Terrence Lambert and senior Airrin Davis ran a time of 3:23.69 in the prelims, finishing in the top 40 of nearly 500 teams. It is the second-fastest time in the 4A classification and the seventh-fastest time in Virginia according to

Middleton’s official split of 48.46 seconds was one of the top 25 splits out of the nearly 2,000 boys competing in the prelims.

King’s Fork High School also represented Suffolk at the event, though, coach Marvin Ricks said, “It was a little bit of a rough meet for us.”

Senior Roneka Spady was injured, but tried to run through it in the 4×100-meter relay.

The team, competing in the large schools division, placed 25th out of 250 teams with a time of 49.44 seconds. Aside from Spady, the group included senior Gabrielle Snipes and juniors Courtney Ricks and Brittany Dickens.

Spady sat out the 4×400 relay, and senior Danielle Hill joined Dickens, Ricks and Snipes. They finished ninth in their heat with a time of 4:11.52.

For the King’s Fork boys, the 4×100 team including freshman Lawrence Smith, junior TyQuan Weston, junior Trelen Cox and freshman DeVon Eason finished 84th out of over 260 teams with a time of 44.24 seconds.

The 4×400 team including Smith, Eason and seniors Andrew Gould and Darius Allen finished 13th in its heat, with a time of 3:38.31.

KF coach Ruchelle Ricks said there was some disappointment this year that no Bulldogs advanced to any finals like last year.

Nevertheless, she said, “With the season going the way it was this year, it’s not really a big shocker,” alluding to weather delays and meets being canceled.