NR has strong showing at nationals

Published 9:29 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Nansemond River High School girls’ track and field team had a strong showing at the New Balance Indoors National Meet last weekend. The 4×200 relay team placed first and was named national champion.

Fresh off a 5A indoor state championship, Team WAR took a little time to recover and then it was on to prepare for nationals. At the New Balance Indoor national meet, elite teams from across the country meet to compete against each other in New York.

After having a strong showing last year, the Warriors came back with an entirely different group but were still able to have impressive results.

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“From top to bottom, everything was good,” coach Justin Byron said. “To see it all come together like that is amazing. From an athlete standpoint and coaching standpoint, you get to see your hard work pay off.”

Nansemond River’s 4×200 relay placed first with a time of 1:36.65. The team — Syaira Richardson, Kori Carter, Anaya Monroe and Brene Donaldson — set the fifth-fastest time in Virginia history.

The team was seeded 16th, which seemed low considering they won the event last year, but Byron’s motto for his team this year was “come in underrated, leave undefeated.”

For runners like Donaldson and Monroe, it was a special moment, because last year they were not a part of the traveling team. Much of that was due to the firepower the team was equipped with last year, but both runners continued to work hard and broke through a year later and became a national champion.

“It feels phenomenal to be a part of a state championship team because of how hard I’ve worked to get where I am,” Donaldson said. “The experience was great to compete and win a national title.”

“I feel confident in each relay that coach puts together,” Monroe said. “I trusted my training and executed the way I was supposed to. It was an emotional race. I knew he put me there for a reason, and I did my part.”

Byron says this win is very special considering the circumstances for the team this year. After the team lost so many athletes last year, many didn’t give Nansemond River much of a chance this year. What made the 4×200 win that much more impressive is that this year’s time is faster than last year.

“Not taking anything away from last year’s team, but this win meant more,” Byron said. “If you would say the names from the team this year to last year’s team, someone would almost chuckle. They’d think you were crazy if you said they could beat last year’s team. Despite all odds, for them to go out there and do what they did was special.”

Throughout this whole season, Byron never mentioned anything about last year’s team. He wanted the team this year to create their own identity, and they accepted the challenge. From runners to coaches they all have been embracing the underdog role this season.

Other notable finishes at nationals included Carter’s third-place finish with a time of 24.77 in the 200-meter dash (emerging elites). Richardson placed sixth in the 400-meter dash with a personal record of 54.47. A younger 4×200 team placed second (emerging elites).

Next for Nansemond River is the outdoor season, which starts April 5 at Grassfield High School.