Cumberland High seniors reflect as team prepares for regionals

Published 11:10 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Keep focused on the main thing. That’s been the mantra from day one for the Cumberland High Lady Dukes track team. Focus on one event, one meet at a time. And that focus paid off on Wednesday, May 17, as the team won the 2023 James River District Track & Field Championship. Now they’re looking ahead to regionals. 

Competing at Nottoway High, the Lady Dukes finished with 188 points, more than 50 ahead of second place Prince Edward County, which finished with 131. 

“An awesome feat with this amazingly special group, tremendous administration support from (athletic director), assistant coach all the way to the superintendent,” said Kenneth Jasey. He works as the head track coach for Cumberland High. 

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His comments were echoed by Cumberland County Public Schools Superintendent Chip Jones.

“I am very proud of our track team and coaching staff,” Jones said. “The team members and coaches have dedicated a great amount of time to reach this milestone. I am eager to see their performance in regional competition.”

Celebrating a love of running

Seniors Nalonda Henderson and Lakyra Bartee led the way for Cumberland High. Bartee, named the female runner of the year, won in the 100 meter hurdles, while placing second in the 200 and 400 meter races. Henderson meanwhile won the district events in pole vault, long jump, discus and shot put, being named female field athlete of the year. 

“It feels so good, it’s really awesome,” said Bartee. “Our team’s chemistry is really good this year and we have a great coach.”

Bartee has loved running ever since she was young. Knowing how much she would love it, her aunt encouraged her to try out for the team as well as her coach who saw her running up and down the court playing basketball. 

“Running clears my mind and gives me something to look forward to in the day,” she said.

For Henderson, the win was exciting, but also somewhat sad.  

“This was my first district championship, so it’s a bit bittersweet since I graduated this year, but it’s still good,” she said.

Henderson has also run since she was young, joining the middle school team in seventh grade with her friends as something fun to try for a year. That year, she was a runner-up and decided to keep with it and try again to win, which she did in eighth grade.

During the competition, Henderson gets her drive to win not from beating those around her but beating her own personal records.

“At the competitions, I know everyone is going to try to beat me, so I also have to try to beat myself,” she said. “So I am only focused on what I’m doing and not on everyone else.”

What happens next for Cumberland High? 

So now they’ve won a district championship. What’s the next step for the Cumberland High Lady Dukes? 

“Right now, we’re just keeping the main thing the main thing,” Jasey said. “That’s one meet at a time, en route to state championships!”

To do that, they’ll go on the road this week, competing at the regional championship held at Sussex Central High. From there, they hope to take it all the way to a state title in the beginning of June.