Crawfordsville girls track and field team was a young one this past season but that didn’t stop CHS from having a strong showing. Leading the way for the young Athenian team was sophomore Na’arah Byard. Byard who wasn’t at full strength during her freshman season due to a quad injury, was back at 100% this season and did the sophomore put on an absolute show. At the county meet Byard went a perfect 4-4 in her events as she was the county champion in the long jump, 4x100 relay, and the 100 and 200 meter dash. Fast forward to the conference meet and Byard shined yet again and earned a SAC title in the long jump and 4x400 relay. At the Harrison sectional she helped the 4x100 team advance to the Regional where there the four-some broke their own school record with a time of 50.31.
A year ago Shea Williamson was the do-it-all athlete for the Athenians and now the torch has been passed down to Byard. The blazing fast sophomore notes how all it took find success in her second year with the Athenians was a mindset shift.
“Track is something that I am passionate about and I wanted to dedicate myself to get better,” Byard said. “I started weightlifting in our specialized class and that has helped tremendously. Last year with having Shea, I really looked up to her because she was amazing for us and with her leaving I wanted to be the one who stepped in to fill that void that she left. I also just had the winner mindset of knowing that any event or race that I’m in I can go out succeed in it.”
It’s that mentality that allowed Byard even as a sophomore to be one of the ones to take the reigns and lead the young Athenian team. This season Cville defended their county title from a year ago while placing fourth overall at the conference meet. First year coach Mike Jones saw the impact that Byard had this season and knows he has a star in the making.
“She just has a gift for speed and that’s something you can’t teach,” Jones said. “You can put her in almost any event and she’ll find a way to succeed in it. That was a challenge for us but a phenomenal one because she can run the 100, 200 4x100& 4x400 along with doing the long jump. She has the desire to work and do anything that she needs to do. Another great quality about her is it’s always been about the team-first mindset. That shows the kind of person that she is and the value that she brought to our team this season.”
Before the beginning of the year, Jones noted how he wanted all of his athletes to buy in and work their tails off to achieve great things. That ideology stuck with Byard and it’s more than paid off for both parties out on the track.
“Coach Jones wants us to put in 100% effort in anything that we do,” Byard added. “I wanted to be that athlete especially after being hurt last season. I told him (Jones) that it didn’t matter what event he put me in, I was going to try my hardest and do the best that I could for this team.”
Along with Byard in the 4x100, Campbell White, Parker Hartman , and Lily Hummel were the other three that made up the relay team for CHS. Coming into the season the school record wasn’t even a thought until one particular meet that made Jones and his 4x100 team know it was a possibility.
“During our last home meet, I pointed out to them that they were .31 off of the school record and all of them were shocked,” Jones said. “I don’t think that they knew they were that close and it really put it into their minds that they were better than they were giving themselves credit for. That was the switch that flipped with all four of them. Na’arah was the one leading the charge and they came out everyday and worked harder than I’ve ever seen them.”
With her only being a sophomore, the bar has now been set high for the Athenian sprinter. Byard has her goals not only set high for herself but her entire team as she knows that they can achieve some pretty special things.
“We all are going to work extremely hard to have an even better year,” she said. “They have track in the back of their minds as do I. We’re just going to reach for stars and try and set as many records and advance as far as we can in the post-season.”
Byard has all of the qualities a coach would want in a young star. It didn’t take Jones very long to realize that and now with two years left in her high school career, the sky is the limit.
“When I think of her as an athlete, I can’t think of her just as a sophomore,” Jones said. “She has the and mentality of what you would want as a senior. To have those qualities at such a young age for her, it’s un-heard of for me as a coach. It’s every coaches dream to have a runner like her. I had a grin across my face so many times this season when hearing our kids talk to each other about how they’re going to get better and what their goals are. It’s awesome to see that and Na’arah is a big example of it.”
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