Nabwe duo takes North Dakota competition by the horns

Annie and Yolanda Nabwe were among the top athletes competing in the North Dakota High School athletic contests this last year.

state track a girls 100 052921
Cece Deebom (5) of Fargo Davies, edges out Jamestown's Yolanda Nabwe (6) and Anthonett Nabwe in the Class A girls 100-meter dash Saturday, May 29, 2021, at the North Dakota State Track and Field Meet in Bismarck. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Annie and Yolanda Nabwe are not Jamestown natives but the Blue Jays couldn't be happier to welcome them to Jamestown.

"I love having them on the team," JHS co-head track and field coach Mike Dietz said. "Yolanda is a good enough athlete that I am pretty sure every coach would like a chance to have her on a team. I would anticipate Annie to get a minimum of two (college offers) and they would be out of the Big 10."

Needless to say, the JHS athletic committee is pretty glad the Nabwes decided to make the move from Liberia to Jamestown almost four years ago.

"We moved here because the U.S. has better opportunities than where we lived," Annie said. "We chose to come to Jamestown because we have family here."

Some of those opportunities available in Jamestown came in the form of sport, an appealing prospect for one of the sisters.


"Both of my parents, my aunt and some of my cousins are athletes," Annie said. "My mom and aunt both played basketball and my mom also played soccer. My dad still plays soccer. I think both my parents' love for sports inspired me."

Annie competed every available season her junior year, suiting up for the Jamestown High School volleyball, basketball and track and field teams. The senior ended up traveling to the state tournament with all three of her teams this year. Volleyball ended up placing fourth in the eight-team tourney while basketball lost out to eventual state runner-up Fargo Davies. This spring, Nabwe placed in all four of her events at the Bismarck Community Bowl, taking home the top prize in the shot put and the discus.

Annie said she thinks the athletic competition in the West Region is generally stiffer than that of the competition in Liberia but added that she couldn't really compare the two. Annie said growing up in Liberia the physical game of basketball was made all the more physical simply because she was often playing with and competing against the boys' teams.

"Her athleticism really stands out," JHS head girls basketball coach Andy Skunberg said of Annie. "You talk to other people around the state who are seeing her for the first time, they are very impressed with how athletic she is -- how high she can jump, how fast she can run -- all those little things."

"We saw our average rebounds per game jump sky-high," Skunberg said. "She was getting 10 to 20 rebounds a game. She's playing AAU this summer and getting some notice out there."

Annie said the American style of basketball is comparative to the Liberian style, and added that soccer is another sport that gets a lot of attention in both countries. The soon-to-be senior said she did play soccer when she was younger but quit when she hit mid-elementary school. Coming to Jamestown, Annie said she didn't know if she would be good at soccer after so long away from the sport so she decided to try out track and field in the spring instead.

"She's super competitive and she likes breaking her records," Dietz said of the older Nabwe sister. "Earlier in the season, her sister beat her in a race and she didn't like that. I think that was the last that Yolanda beat her. Annie's got that inner drive, that competitiveness and wants to keep getting better."

This spring, Annie started out the year by breaking the JHS indoor shot-put record by almost 6 feet. By the time she wrapped up the season at the state meet, Annie had broken her own record on four separate occasions. The Blue Jay standout also set a new school record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.04 seconds.


Dietz said that Annie undoubtedly has the talent to be a big-time threat in the throws, but added that she is still just learning all the correct techniques and intricacies it takes to be a state champion in every one of her events.

Even still, Annie's record-breaking performances have been noticed by Division I track and field programs. At this time, the older Nabwe has one official full-ride Division I scholarship offer on the table.

"(Yolanda and I) do like training together and competing against each other because we both want to get better," Annie said.

It could be surmised that Annie might like the competition a little better than her younger sister though.

"I did not do sports in Liberia, Annie did basketball and played a little bit of soccer but I didn’t really do anything cause I wasn’t really interested in sports," Yolanda said. "I was going to (play soccer) my freshman year but COVID happened. I thought on it my sophomore year but it’s at the same season track is so I did track instead."

It was a good thing for the Blue Jays that Yolanda decided to give the track and field season a go.

"She's just scratching the surface of her talent," Dietz said of Yolanda. "I don't think she's really aware of how good she could be. She's still got a long way to go to get better but she's pretty good right now just the way she is."

Yolanda, her sister's main competitor in the 100 at most of the Blue Jays' meets, sprinted her way to a fourth-place finish in the event at State. The soon-to-be Blue Jay junior was just .05 seconds behind Minot's MiLiah Burke who wound up third in the sub-15 second race.


Yolanda also anchored the 4x100 meter relay, the third place team at state, finishing in 50.20 seconds.

Despite the talent Yolanda displayed on the rubber, competing still wasn't about being the best for the younger of the duo.

"It was a way for me to get more and become more social and involved in school and to expand my circle," Yolanda said.

"They are both so different," Dietz said. "I work more with Annie because of the throws and I can comment on how humble she is and how hard of a worker she is and she's just a great kid. I am still getting to know Yolanda but I am equally excited to have both of them on my team and am excited to see what they do next year."

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
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