State Finals Preview

Byard ready to represent Athenians at state finals


When Crawfordsville junior Na’arah Byard competes at the IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals on Friday, there will be plenty of “first sinces” being thrown around.

The blazing fast junior is set to compete in the long jump on the campus of Indiana University after placing second at the Lafayette Jeff Regional with a distance of 17 ft 9 in. Byard’s appearance at the state finals is the first for a Montgomery County male or female runner since Southmont’s Trent Jones in 2021. For Cville it’s the first runner they’ve had at the state finals since James Caraher in 2010 and first female runner since Johnetta Hammond in 2006.

“Hearing my name called at the regional and knowing that I was going to state was extremely exciting for me,” Byard said. “What made that moment even more special was that I had so many teammates there and my family who were in my corner supporting me. Having them there and wanting to do well for them I think allowed me to do as well as I did. I never expected to go to state so soon in my high school career. I’m not going to be taking anything for granted ”

Byard’s jump of 17 ft 9 in wasn’t even the furthest she’s jumped this season. At the sectional, she jumped a distance of 17 ft 10 1/2 in to win the sectional title and set the Athenian school record. First-year Athenian coach Amanda Elizondo noted that getting to the state finals is no easy task and one that Byard is looking forward to.

“I hope she soaks in the moment because it’s going to be special,” Elizondo said. “We’re obviously all excited for her to get his opportunity and we know that she’s going to do great. We are ready to make it a more common thing with both of our teams. It’s been awhile since we’ve had someone go to state and now that they see Na’arah there, I think that will give everyone else a little giddy up in their step so that we can start to have this be a routine.”

After showcasing her talents all season long for CHS in multiple events like the 100 (another school record that Byard owns) and other sprint events, she now gets to focus on just one event and put all of her training into doing her best in the long jump.

“Doing four events most races was a little bit overwhelming at some points this year,” Byard said. “Now that I’m able to focus on just one, I’m really just trying to tweak little things in the long jump. One thing I am going to focus on for myself is not comparing myself to the others who are there. I just want to go and have a great showing and hopefully break the school record again. If I did that I’d be over the moon.”

Byard is currently seeded 13th out of 27 and if she jumps what she did at the sectional, she’d place 11th. For her to travel to Bloomington and represent the talented Athenian girls team, is something Elizondo is looking forward to for Byard and the program.

“Her getting to bring back that experience to the rest of the girls is going to be big for us leading into next year,” she said. “We have high hopes and goals for all of our girls and having one get to compete on the biggest stage the state has to offer is pretty amazing and I know that our entire program will be behind her on Friday.”

The long jump is one of the first scheduled events of the afternoon at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex. Events begin at 3 p.m.