COLUMBIA - Heathwood Hall's Maryah Nasir is on an impressive run heading into the final weekends of the outdoor independent high school track and field season.
The junior girls Highlanders' runner has placed first in the 800 and 1600 at every meet her team has entered this season, and she's won two of the three 3200s she's competed in this spring.
Nasir's streak of nine straight first-place finishes in the 3200 stretching back to April of 2014 was broken earlier this month at the Bojangles' Track and Field Classic, where she finished 26th.
Her coach, Willis Ware, has grown to expect big performances from his top track athlete.
"Maryah has fantastic speed, as well as great endurance," Ware recently told scrunners.com. "She has the ability to run out front, or run from behind and use her speed to challenge at the end of a race."
Ware said Nasir's running has improved since over the past couple of years.
"When she arrived here, her confidence level had declined some," he said. "In addition to her conditioning, I've focused on helping her become a more confident runner through the workouts, and by creating some opportunities for her to succeed."
One such circumstance came during last year's SCISA championships, where she took the 3200, then won the 1600.
Then, "after a little pep talk," Ware said, Nasir took first in the 800 and then anchored the girls' 4x400 relay with a 1:02 split.
"She put together an unusual and difficult triple," Ware said.
In a sense, Nasir was born to run. She said that at an early age she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"I would always run," Nasir said, "whether it was in the house or outside. I remember when I was around five years old, I ran 100 times in circles inside my house."
The family was living in the Asheville area at the time, and her parents decided to sign her up in a youth track club called the Asheville Lightning. It was there where Nasir met Bill Agrella, longtime head coach at Asheville Lightning.
"Coach Agrella was the first coach to put me in my first 1500-meter race," she said. Agrella also introduced Nasir to the 800.
"To this day, the 1600 and 800 are my favorite events," she said.
The Nasirs moved to Summerville in 2010, where Maryah joined the Summerville Storm Track Club. She ran with them for "a few years," before entering Pinewood Prep as a sixth-grader on the school's cross country and track team.
Five years later, the family moved to Columbia and enrolled Maryah at Heathwood. She credits Ware with improving her running technique, which have led to improved times and recent success on the track, most recently at the Bob Jenkins SCTCCCA Coaches Classic where she won both the 800 and 1600. She time in the 800 of 2:17.86 was a PR.
"Winning the 800 and 1600 at Coaches Classic was one of the most satisfying accomplishments in my track and field career," Nasir said.
It's also been a rewarding season for her coach.
"She has responded well to the workout load I've given her and has done a great job of balancing her academic load with cross country, track and school clubs," Ware said. "She is fun to coach, given her versatility and natural talent."