New Balance Nationals brings athletes together in GreensboroBy Naari Honor, Peacemaker Contributor / June 24, 2016
More than 5,700 high school athletes ran like the wind at the Irvin Belk Track on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University. Athletes representing 46 states and Canada participated at the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation’s (NSAF) New Balance Nationals (NBN) Outdoor Track and Field Championships. And for the first time in the event’s history, the meet was attended by a team from South Africa.Lourens Steenekamp, a junior and member of the South African team, was grateful for the opportunity to be part of the first team of athletes from his country to attend the New Balance Nationals. Steenekamp also set the bar by winning first place in his heat of the boys’ 400- meter hurdles with a time of 53.88 seconds.
“Today I won my heat and it was great,” said Steenkamp. “This is a great experience.”
Fellow teammate Amaan Africa placed fourth overall in the boys’ 100-meter finals with a time of 10.48 seconds and Stefani Nel placed fourth overall in the boys’ javelin with a throw of 62.20-meters.
The NBN event also helps to forge relationships between student athletes and build on key values, like sportsmanship.
Claudia Cox, a senior from South Central High School in Greenville, N.C competed in the 400m hurdles. She demonstrated the best of sportsmanship when she helped fellow runner Corrine Kennedy, who injured herself during the 400, mere seconds before crossing the finish line. Realizing that Kennedy had a hard collision with her last hurdle of the race, Cox made sure that her injured running mate was not left behind. “She [Kennedy] would have taken me if she hadn’t fallen over that hurdle,” said Cox as she escorted Kennedy to the medical tent for further care.
The show of sportsmanship was not the only shining moment in the girls’ 400-meter hurdles. Sydney McLaughlin, a junior from Union Catholic Regional High School (Dunnellen, N.J.), broke a 32-year-old national record by three-quarters of a second in the finals by running 54.46 seconds.
Another worthwhile experience for the student-athletes was the competition itself. “I am grateful to be here for the 25th anniversary,” said Jazmine Gooden, a Dudley High School senior who competed in the finals of the girls’ long jump and 100-meter hurdles. She added that she looks forward to the challenging competition outside of N.C.
Throughout the weekend, NASF made sure their participants enjoyed themselves during their “downtime” by providing athletes with a fully stocked lounge not far from the track and customizable track & field gear stations where athletes could pick up swag from sponsors. Several DJs played music to help ease the stress of back-to-back events and a drumming collective from Durham and Clayton, N.C. performed as athletes competed.
To volunteer with an NASF event, contact the foundation through its Web site: www.NationalScholastic.org.