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Without a Practice Track, Ogden Senior Still Becomes Track and Field Star

By Justin Breen | April 20, 2015 6:33am
 Nichyria Byrd
Nichyria Byrd
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WEST TOWN — Nichyria Byrd is a track star without the track, so to speak.

The Ogden International senior, who's signing a track and field scholarship with Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville on Monday, practices on the West Town school's sidewalk because it doesn't have an actual track. It also doesn't have a sand pit in which to jump for Byrd's long- and triple-jump practices, so she sprints on grass before leaping into a large mat typically used for high jumping.

Only during official meets does Byrd, of Jeffery Manor, get to perform on official track and sand surfaces. But her athletic ability is obviously apparent as she won the triple jump at last year's IHSA state meet. She also holds Ogden school records in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, long jump, triple jump and is part of record-setting efforts in the 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter relays.

Justin Breen says Byrd will be the first in her family to go to college:

Nichyria Byrd stands on her school's sidewalk, which doubles as its practice track. (Ogden International School)

"I feel like if we did have a better place to practice or a jump pit it would help me tremendously, but I’m not going to make any excuses," said Byrd, 18. "For me to be where I am with little practice space, it’s great for me. When I get to college and in a better facility, I’ll be doing a lot better."

Byrd chose SIUE over several schools, including Ball State, Illinois State, Central Michigan and Eastern Illinois, because she liked the campus environment and her cousin goes there.

Byrd will be the first person in her immediate family to go to college. She wants to eventually own a business like her mom, Angelique Michaud, who runs a before- and after-school transportation service for students.

"I'm really excited for myself to even be able to go to college," Byrd said.

Ogden coach Adam Hoover said Byrd essentially made the school's track and field program legitimate when she arrived in 2011.

"Four years ago, we were mostly freshmen and sophomores running around our cement sidewalk that we call a track," said Hoover, of Lakeview. "She was one of the few that showed every single day, really working to get better. At a small school like Ogden, not many people had heard of us, and after Nichyria came around and started running and jumping, people began to notice our program."

The commute to Ogden isn't easy for Byrd, who went to Ariel Community Academy for elementary school. It takes her 1½ hours each way. In the morning, she takes the Green Line and Blue Line; going home, she takes the Green Line and the Jeffery No. 14 bus.

Nichyria Byrd is a standout sprinter and jumper for Ogden International. She won state last year in the triple jump. (Ogden International)

The long days have been worth it because she's enjoyed attending Ogden's small, tight-knit campus. She expects the same atmosphere at SIUE, where she'll have the opportunity to set more records and propel herself on the track and in the air.

For when Byrd is jumping, she said "it feels like I'm flying."

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