Girls T&F Runner of the Year

Taking a historic leap forward

Crawfordsville’s Na’arah Byard’s record breaking season sees her repeat as JR Girls Runner of the Year


Crawfordsville junior Na’arah Byard emerged in her sophomore season a year ago as a dominant track star for the Athenians. It was hard to imagine the blazing fast sprinter getting any better but in her junior season this past year, that’s exactly what Byard did. This season on the track Byard broke both the 100 meter dash record with a time of 12.63 and the long jump with a distance of 17ft 10 1/2 inches. That long jump record allowed Byard to be the sectional champion and at the Regional she jumped 17ft 9in to place second and punch her ticket to the IHSAA Girls Track and Field State Finals.

Byard was the first Athenian female since 2006 and the first overall track athlete for CHS to compete in the state finals since 2010.

“This season was a blast for me,” Byard said of her junior year. “Getting those two school records was something that I was really aiming to get especially in the 100. Throughout the year I learned that I was pretty good in the long jump too and of course was able to get to go state in it. Getting to be at the state finals was a great experience for me. I was able to soak in the moment of just getting to be there. I didn’t perform as well as I wanted but the best part about that is I have next year to get back there and do better.”

Adding to her accomplishment of the two school records, the sectional title, and the state finals appearance, Byard was a four event winner in the county meet and the Sagamore Conference meet. Byard’s record breaking season has earned her the 2024 Journal Review Girls Runner of the Year for the second straight season.

“Na’arah is going to remember this season for quite a long time,” Athenian coach Amanda Elizondo said. “She’s just a special runner and this season was a special one for her. The best part about her is she is still very hungry for next year. She is constantly talking about how she can continue to get better. Na’arah is the type of runner where you plan around her because you know that she’s going to score a ton of points for you as a team. She was able to be thrown in a variety of events if we needed here there. I was super proud to see her get those two records and of course make it to state.”

Byard was obviously known for her blazing fast speed as a sprinter but coming into the season the long jump was another event where she knew she could likely see success. It’s safe to say that Byard was right.

“I remember talking with my parents before the season started about what events I would do and just remember making a remark about the long jump and how good it was. At the sectional it something just clicked with me and I was able to set the school record there. Coach Elizondo really helped me work on my technique throughout the season and it paid off very well for me.”

Not only was the season a major success for Byard, but for the entire Crawfordsville girls team. The Athenians won their third straight county title, placed second at the SAC meet, and at sent seven girls to the Regional in the form of Caroline and Sophia Melevage, Guinevere Schmitzer-Torbert, Riley Gardner, Skylah Straswer, Katherine Novak along with Byard. Elizondo praised her girls team all season long and took one last moment to reflect on the year and the very bright future next season.

“The sky is the limit for our girls next year,” Elizondo said. “We broke through in so many different areas this season and the best part is we’re bringing almost everyone of those girls back. We’re going to have our goals set high because we were right there at conference, had a great showing at the sectional and can hopefully get some more girls to go with Na’arah next year to the state finals.”

As for Byard, it’s scary to think that she can still get even better in her senior season, but that’s the goal and mindset that she has heading into what will be her final year with CHS in 2025.

“It starts with me getting in the weight room and getting stronger,” Byard said of her off-season prep. “To get to where I want to be I know that I have to work on track year-round. Coach (Clyde) Morgan I’ll work with too to get better.”

Byard and the rest of the Athenian girls are aiming for an even better season in 2025. They all have the talent to reach their goals and with Byard helping lead the way, the Athenians will be a team to watch next season on the track.