Western Branch sprinter Ballard peaking in time for state meet

by Jamaar Hawkins, i64sports

This weekend, when Western Branch senior Shadajah Ballard steps onto the track for her final state indoor meet, her mind may shift to the nation’s-best 7.69 time she posted in the 55 meter hurdles earlier this year. Ballard may also picture younger sister, Na’Taja, nipping at her heels much like last year’s Class 6 state outdoor meet when the siblings finished 1-2 in the 200 meters.

But deep down inside, Shadajah is merely concerned with the person that has always been her biggest competition: Herself.

Along with her 55mh time, Ballard has also posted the eighth-fasted 300m time (39.09 seconds), leading Western Branch to last week’s 6A South region championship by more than 40 points.

Ballard has already finalized her college decision, committing to the University of Kentucky earlier this year. The opportunity to join the Wildcats storied program was too much to pass up for the Western Branch star. Former Bruin Faith Ross is also a junior hurdler for Kentucky.

“{Kentucky} was my dream school. It felt like home. They have a good track program and good coaches,” Ballard said of her decision.

First, she will have a chance to bring home state titles in the 55mh, 300 meters and long jump. A feat that would continue to cement Ballard’s place among Hampton Roads’ elite high school track athletes. Her goal is to set personal marks in each individual event, while leading the Lady Bruins to yet another state title.

The road to states has been filled with a few more potholes than usual this season with the absence created when longtime coach Claude Toukene departed to take a position with the Bryant & Stratton track & field program. The Bruins swept last year’s state championships, with Ballard winning the 55mh and finishing runner-up in the 55 and 300. The expectations remain the same heading into this weekend’s state meet.

“It’s been some rough patches which was expected, but the end goal was still the still the same. So everyone was always on the same page. ”

Before adding, “A few injuries held us back, but we’re still looking pretty good.”

Class 6 state indoor track & field meet

February 22-23, 2019

Boo Williams Sportsplex (Hampton, VA)

Field events begin at 9:00am on Friday and 8:00 on Saturday. Friday’s running events will begin at 4:30pm. Saturday’s running finals will start at Noon. 

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