Rarely does an athlete come on the varsity sports scene as a seventh-grader and make an impact. Maryah Nasir is the exception.
Nasir won an individual cross country state championship in 2012 and finished runner-up the past two seasons while running at Pinewood Prep. Now a sophomore, Nasir has made the transition to Heathwood Hall and has her sights set on the SCISA cross country state meet held on the Highlanders’ course this weekend.
“I feel confident that I will do the very best that I can,” Nasir said. “I know I’m in good shape, so I carry that over to the course. I never set personal goals, but I just try to run the best that I can and hopefully I can help the team.”
It helps that Nasir came to a school she was familiar with and its course. There were a few awkward moments early, but those have gone away now.
“At first it felt strange going to a rival school, but then after you’re here for a while, it feels like family,” Nasir said. “It’s gone well. It’s always exciting to go to a new school and make new friends.”
Nasir helped Pinewood Prep to the past two state championships and a runner-up finish in 2012. She finished second each of the past two years to former Heathwood Hall standout Sydney Ellen, but the Panthers edged the Highlanders for the overall title.
Heathwood Hall coach Willis Ware has had to compete against Nasir, so he knew what we was getting. The Highlanders graduated four of their top five runners from last year, and Nasir has been the nucleus to rebuilding the program.
“I was obviously excited because of the talent she has and I knew this would give us a top-notch runner that we could sort of rebuild the program around considering the hits we’ve taken in graduation,” Ware said. “She has the ability to compete against any girl in South Carolina.”
Nasir has six individual victories in seven meets. The fact that she’s accomplished those lofty standards against not only private schools, but some of the biggest and best public schools in the state, proves she’s one of the top runners regardless of classification.
Nasir won the Coaches Classic, Lake Murray Invitational and Sandhills Invitational in recent weeks. Last week in the region meet, she ran 18:19 to set the meet record. Her best time came as an 8thgrader when she ran 18:18.
Ware is trying to ensure she returns and improves on that. Nasir has the fastest 5K time among all Midlands girls and is ranked 6th in the state overall.
“Clearly, Maryah is incredibly gifted in terms of her raw talent,” Ware said. “One of the things we’ve been working on is to increase her overall strength and stamina. She has an amazing amount of speed and endurance. She’s competitive and she wants to do well. I’ve tried to help her as an overall runner by developing her core strength.”