State Finalist

Athenians Byard qualifies for State Finals

First time for Athenian runner since 2010 and first time since 2006 for a female runner


Crawfordsville junior Na’arah Byard has done something that no CHS track and field athlete has done since 2010 and no female Athenian has done since 2006. Byard continued her sensational junior season on Tuesday at the IHSAA Girls Track and Field Regional at Lafayette Jeff. Competing in the long jump, Byard jumped a distance of 17ft 9in on her first three jumps. When everyone had concluded their jumps, Byard placed second overall which meant that her junior season would get be concluded at the IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals in Bloomington next Friday.

“We all had goosebumps,” Crawfordsville coach Amanda Elizondo said of Byard qualifying for the state finals. “We all just wanted to hear her name called to make sure everything was official. All of our coaches and Na’arah’s family were there standing around her so it certainly made for a special moment.”

This season has literally been one for the record books for the blazing fast junior. The last Athenian to race at the state finals was James Caraher in the 800 in 2010 and the last female was Johnetta Hammond back in 2006. Byard has already broken a handful of school records this season and has been one of the driving forces for a Cville girls team that has had themselves quite the season.

Byard at the Regional was joined by teammates Guinevere Schmitzer-Torbert, Riley Gardner, Sophia and Caroline Melevage, Skylah Strawser, and Katherine Novak as the seven Athenians were the most they’ve sent to the Regional. Schmitzer-Torbert placed sixth in the 300 hurdles with a time of 47.72 to set a PR. Gardner also placed sixth in the high jump with a height of 5ft 2in while the 4x800 team of the Melevage sisters, Strawser and Novak placed 13th with a time of 11:02.61.

“Na’arah just brings so much energy to our entire team and of course she’s over the moon about getting to race at state,” Elizondo added. “This entire girls team is so talented from top to bottom and we bring back so many of these girls for what we hope is an even better year next season. We want to win conference and we were very close to doing it this year then of course get as many out of the sectional as we can and send these girls onto the Regional again and hopefully more of them get to join Na’arah at state next year.”

The idea that Byard will get to represent the Athenians on the biggest stage the state has to offer is something else that Elizondo noted will be a big accomplishment and honor for her. Getting out of a Regional that features some of the top teams in the state isn’t an easy task by any means either and Byard has put it all together to make sure her name gets known.

“We talk over and over again about how difficult our Regional is with all of the big Indy schools there,” Elizondo said. “I know that she is going to be a great representative for our team and our school. She carries herself so well and has a great attitude and great work ethic and is just a joy to be around.”

Byard will have a week to prepare as the 2024 IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals will take place on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington next Friday at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field complex. Byard will begin competing right as things get underway next Friday at 3 p.m.