HBCU Sports: Yarde sets school record in winning the 400-meter hurdles at MEAC Championships


— Tanaya Yarde enjoyed a performance for the ages in setting a Coppin State University school record and winning the 400-meter hurdles on the final day of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) women’s outdoor track and field championships at North Carolina A&T’s Irwin Belk Track Saturday afternoon.

In accomplishing a season-long goal, Yarde’s winning effort of 58.18 seconds was special. The Coppin State junior speedster has been the dominant athlete in the 400-meter hurdles all season long and now she has the gold medal to prove it.

Yarde was elite, strong, sleek and awesome in majestically soaring over the hurdles.

“It feels amazing to be a MEAC champion,” Yarde said. “It feels even better to know that I won off the strength of me running my hardest and not just being the top runner coming in. It means a lot to me running under a minute because I knew I could do it. There was no doubt in my mind that I could run under a minute but I just needed to be put in the right race and have everything that I’ve been working on come together.”

Yarde became Coppin State’s second individual MEAC outdoor champion this week. Deandra Daniel won her sixth straight high jump championship on Thursday. For Yarde, it was the fourth time this season, she has lowered Felisha Harris’ once untouchable 23-year school standard of 1:01.86.

Yarde wasn’t finished after winning the 400-meter hurdles; she teamed with Alexis Marsh, Kadeem Curtis and Miriam Ekwuru to finish fifth in the 4×400-meter relay in a season-best time of 3 minutes, 44.86 seconds. Also scoring points was the Eagles 4 x 100-meter relay team of Randi Bohler, Marsh, Yarde and Ekwuru. They finished eighth in 47.06 seconds. Alethia Edwards competed in the javelin and finished ninth overall with a toss of 30.97 meters (101 feet, 7 inches).

Overall, the Eagles finished in ninth place with 33.33 points. Florida A&M edged Hampton, 111-105, to win the team title. While winning the hurdles in a school record time was significant to Yarde, she was more hyped for her relay buddies.

“I am extremely proud of our 4 x 400-meter relay team,” Yarde said. “They went out there and ran their hearts out in helping us run our fastest time of the outdoor season. I am proud of myself for finally scoring at MEACs and helping my team gain points for once. The previous times here, I’ve only scored points with relay teams.”

As a sign of her maturity and steely-focus, Yarde never looked back on previous races. She was locked in from the start and nothing was going to stop her from accomplishing what she set out to do. Last weekend at Penn Relays, Yarde wasn’t pleased with her performance even though she won her heat and finished ninth overall in 1:00.97. She still wasn’t impressed with her 1:00.07 mark, which was a school record that she ran during Thursday’s semifinals.

Believe it or not, Yarde had an unusual feeling before her championship race.

“I was extremely nervous going into my race and I’m never nervous before the 400 hurdles,” Yarde said. “I was able to get out strong and finished strong. I executed every hurdle. I ran my heart out and when I heard the announcer say 58.18, I couldn’t do anything but throw my hands up and thank God. A new school record. How awesome is that?”

Yarde has high standards for herself and has blossomed into an unstoppable force. This is an effort that Coppin State veteran track and field head coach Alecia Shields-Gadson knew was possible from Yarde ever since she stepped foot on campus.

“Finally,” Shields-Gadson said. “We’ve been waiting all season for her to break the one minute barrier and she did it in spectacular fashion. Her time puts her in an elite group nationally and primes her to compete for a top spot at the NCAA preliminary competition at the end of the month.”