Leading the Pack: Sharika Nelvis

By Zach Roberts
On February 13, 2014

Senior Sharika Nelvis is a recognizable leader amongst the pack of track and field athletes this indoor season for the Red Wolves with at least one first place finish at each event. Yet her mastery of this sport is one she has worked on her whole life.

From a relatively young age Nelvis realized her potential in track and field by participating in field day events at her elementary school. She decided to pursue competitive track and field going into middle school.

“I was the second fastest girl on the team in middle school,” she said. “In high school I was the fastest girl. I was the only girl.”

Not only did Nelvis excel at track and field, she also played basketball, volleyball, softball and soccer throughout middle school as well as high school.

While being a five sport athlete Nelvis found herself to be a highly decorated track athlete, winning awards such as Best of the Preps two years in a row and Gatorade’s Runner of the Year in Tennessee in 2009.

After graduating from Northside High School in Memphis, Tenn. in 2009 Nelvis sought to take her speed to the collegiate level.

Despite this success, a high school class she needed to enter college swayed some scouts away, and her list of scholarship offers quickly dwindled.

“When I first graduated in 2009 I went to a JUCO, Southwest Mississippi, for about two days,” Nelvis said. “I didn’t like it. I was on full ride. I withdrew myself. I was talking to one of the coaches at Arkansas State, Jason Brooks, and I was just like, ‘What do I have to do to come here and be on a full ride and be on the track team?’”

Due to NCAA athlete transfer rules Nelvis had to sit out a year to participate on the Red Wolves track team.

“I couldn’t practice with the team. I practiced by myself and that following year I got on the track team,” she said.

While some college students find it hard simply to wake up in time for their morning classes, Nelvis not only balances her class schedule, but her practice and meet schedules.

“I just want to get better. I want to be that person who drops my time every time I run, to break my personal best every time,” Nelvis said. “It doesn’t always happen. I get pretty close but that is my motivation.”

Winning awards probably seems second nature to Nelvis. Among her accolades are the Sun Belt Conference’s Most Outstanding Freshman of the Year, the Sun Belt’s leading scorer with a 33 point output during indoor season her freshman year and the Sun Belt’s Most Outstanding Track Performer of the Year. The list doesn’t end there. Nelvis was also the Sun Belt’s leading scorer with a 40 point output during her sophomore year during the outdoor season, and grabbed the Sun Belt’s Most Outstanding Track Performer of the Year again her junior year in indoor and outdoor seasons.
This gaudy list of awards may seem amazing but Nelvis said she feels as if her favorite moment as a Red Wolf came when she broke the thirteen seconds barrier in the 100-meter hurdles at a meet which took place May 24th-26th at the University of Texas.

“I ran a 12.9 and my coach came up and hugged me. First hug he has ever given me. I asked why I got a hug and he said, ‘You get that when you run a 12’. I haven’t gotten a hug since, and I ran a 12 last year,” she said.

After she graduates in August Nelvis is preparing herself for a run at professional track.

“Everyone just thinks, “Oh you’re going to the Olympics,’ but there are things before the Olympics. You actually have meets and you can actually become a professional runner,” she said. “You can get sponsored by companies such as Nike, Adidas or Under Armor, but everyone comes together for the Olympics because you all run for the USA. I don’t know everything I need to know about it, but I know I want to continue running. It’s not about the money. I just want to run and beat people.”

As a photojournalism major, Nelvis has a backup plan if professional track does not pan out.

“I want to be a sports photographer, specifically a track photographer,” she said.

As with all professional athletes Nelvis has her sights set on the one big event, The Olympics.

“I see myself as an Olympic caliber runner, but that’s really a goal,” she said. “I want to be in the Olympics in 2016, so after college I have two years to train.”

Nelvis and the Arkansas State track and field team are set to be back in action Feb. 24-25 in Birmingham, Ala.for the Sun Belt Conference Championships as they continue through the indoor season.

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