JHS hurdling crew breaking records, poised to place at State
The Jamestown High School track and field team has three hurdlers ranked in the top 10 in the state.
JAMESTOWN — It's becoming pretty obvious that no Jamestown High School track and field record is safe when a member of the Nabwe family is on the team.
"My goal is to become the best at my race I can be," JHS senior Yolanda Nabwe said. "I never felt like I had to prove myself. I feel like with the help of my coaches and teammates over the years I have become a great and confident athlete. Looking at my stats this year I'm very confident in myself."
The senior hurdler has good reason to be confident.
Last spring at the JHS True Team Meet, Nabwe pushed her way to a 14.89-second finish in the 100 hurdles, breaking McKayla Orr's school record of 15.11 that had stood since 2014.
"I started doing hurdles because I couldn’t just be a sprinter — I needed something to make me seem cool," Nabwe said. "I felt like being just a sprinter without anything else to do gets boring, but I think what drew me to hurdles was the challenge of it and whether I could do it."
Her PR of 14.89 stood as the new school record until May 15 when she beat her previous record by 0.04 seconds at the Bill Jansen Last Chance Meet.
The new record of 14.85 seconds set on Monday stood until Friday.
Nabwe set the current 100 hurdles school record of 14.83 seconds at the 2023 West Region Meet mere minutes after anchoring the Jays' 4x100 meter relay team to a second-place 49.50-second finish.
"I remember being very tired and dead from the relay, and nervous cuz it's my best and favorite race," Nabwe said. "As I was on my blocks I told myself: 'shake it off.' I ran a great race and I'm just really glad that I could make my school, friends and family and myself proud."
Nabwe is one of seven female state qualifiers who will be competing for the Jays at the 2023 Class A State Track and Field Meet this weekend. Four members of the JHS boys team will also be competing for some State Meet hardware. The meet kicks off on Thursday at the Bismarck Community Bowl and will conclude on Saturday.
As good as Nabwe has proven to be, the senior's track and field career began a bit unconventionally.
A few years after the Nabwe family moved to the U.S. from Liberia, Nabwe decided to go out for the Blue Jay soccer team but was denied the opportunity because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, after considering joining soccer again, the junior pivoted and made the decision to give track a go.
Suffice it to say, her decision wound up benefiting everyone involved.
Nabwe is one of three hurdlers who could end up doing some damage at the Community Bowl.
Bernadette Belzer is ranked first in the 300 hurdles and second in the 100.
"My family, especially my dad, has always been super big into track so when it came time to pick a spring sport in seventh grade the obvious choice was track," Belzer said.
Belzer placed first and second in the 300 and 100 at the WDA Meet. The senior is ranked first in the Class A standings in the 300 with a time of 45.76.
"I really like the challenge of hurdles because it’s not only about sprinting speed, but involves so much technique," Belzer said. "I think a myth is people think they’re really scary when in reality I think they’re so fun. I prefer a race with hurdles over an open race any day."
Belzer said this year she has cut over half a second in the 100 hurdles — her personal best time stands at 15.80 seconds.
"I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but trust me it is," Belzer said with a laugh. "I am pretty pleased with that. My goals are to finish this season strong and have a good State Meet and hopefully perform well enough to take home some hardware."
Belzer and Nabwe will be lining up alongside Julia Skari in the 100 hurdles prelims on Friday.
"Yolanda, Julia and I really rely on each other in practice and at meets for encouragement, advice and pushing each other," Belzer said. "It’s really nice to have friends training for the same events that are as serious about hurdling as I am, I think we all really push one another to be better athletes."
Skari, a multi-time state placer in the hurdling events, has qualified for State in the 100 and 300. The sophomore is ranked fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 300.
"Ever since fifth grade I have loved track and enjoyed every minute of it," Skari said. "I have always loved running and the thrill of racing. I started hurdles because it seemed like a fun and new event to try. My mom also told me that I was too short for the event and I wanted to prove her wrong, so I did and I qualified and placed at State."
The 5-foot-2 sparkplug set a new personal record in the 100 at the WDA meet at 16.16 seconds. In the 300, her best time recorded is 47.39 seconds — nearly five seconds faster than at the beginning of the season.
Belzer said the hurdling crew starts each practice with dynamic warmups to get everyone's bodies loose. After that, athletes head to specialty work, lots of mobility stationery and walking drills with hurdles to really lock down form.
"Our crew is good because over the years we have improved our skills and technique and trained to good," Nabwe said. "I think what makes us really good is not just the training but the fact that Julia Skari, Bernadette Belzer and I rely not just on the coach, but on each other. We offer each other constructive criticism and we try to improve and fix whatever we need to fix to get better.
"I think anyone can be a good hurdler if you put in the time, its actually quite easy when you get the hang of it, it is a challenging race but with training and time and consistency you can be a great hurdler," she said. "I think we should do pretty well this weekend."