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Staff Photo by Grant Morris

Arashana Yanes stands under an umbrella after running in the 4x100 meter relay during Tuesday afternoon's track meet at Nashua High School South.
Friday, May 13, 2011

Whatever the challenge, South’s Yanes won’t back down

NASHUA – It was cool and blustery with light rain pelting the athletes in Tuesday’s track meet between Nashua North and Nashua South. It wasn’t a day for sprinters or hurdlers, especially one who grew up running in the Georgia heat.

But as she stood waiting for the baton for the anchor leg of the 4x100 meter relay, South’s Arashana Yanes saw the kind of challenge developing she loves to conquer.

Over the first three legs North had developed a small lead – too small, as it turned out, for the Titans.

With just about everyone at the meet turning and fixing their eyes on the home stretch, Yanes took the baton and looked like she had been fired out of a canon.

Summer Choate, running the anchor leg for North, can run, but Yanes literally blew by her to give South the event.

“She loves to win and she loves a challenge,’’ South coach Stephanie Ziniti said. “The stronger the competition, the better she runs.’’

Yanes proved it, ironically enough, in one of her few loses since joining the track program at Nashua South. In a dual meet with Bishop Guertin a week earlier, she went head-to-head with the Cardinals outstanding senior Cecilia Barowski for 200 meters. Barowski won in 25.3 seconds, the fastest time in the state this spring. Yanes’ time, 25.8, is the second fastest and beat her own personal best by over a second.

Although she ran some in middle school in Jonesboro, Ga., where she grew up, Yanes considered herself more of a basketball player. That is, until the track coach at Mount Zion High School saw her on the basketball court one day.

“He told me you have to come out for track,’’ Yanes remembers. “He insisted I come out for track.’’

Yanes did, and was an almost immediate success. As a sophomore, she placed seventh in the long jump at the Georgia state championships with a leap of 17 feet, 5.5 inches.

Just a week earlier, she won a regional championship with a jump of 18-2.5, which is still her personal best.

“Our coach down there would put a hurdle in front of the pit and make us jump over it,’’ Yanes said. “The competition in Georgia is very strong. You had no idea who was going to win on a given day.’’

So far this spring, Yanes has jumped 17-3, which ranks her second behind only Hillary Holmes of Exeter at 17-7.25.

“As long as she stays consistent with her technique, she’ll just keep getting better,’’ Ziniti said. “She’s certainly capable of going over 18 feet again.’’

Two South athletes immediately come to mind when talking about Yanes. Angie Johnson set the state meet record in the 100 in 1988 with a time of 12.14. Her school record is 11.9. Yanes has already run 12.1 this spring.

Then there’s Robyn Proctor, whose state long jump record of 18-5.5, set in 1984, lasted 24 years until Bree Robinson of Pinkerton broke it by going 19-4.5 in 2008. Proctor still owns the school record.

With over a year to take aim at the records, Yanes should have a shot at each. The oldest existing record belongs to Kathy Lawson of Keene, who ran the 200 in 24.44 in 1971.

Yanes moved to Nashua, her father Arashene Yanes said, for an improved academic atmosphere. Her favorite subject is math.

“I get A’s and B’s,’’ Yanes said, “he (her father) won’t allow anything lower.’’

Because of transfer credits from her former school, Yanes is currently a sophomore academically and is listed as a sophomore on track web sites. But the 17-year-old Yanes said she expects to catch up on a few credits and be a senior next year. Then she hopes to run collegiately.

Would she like to go South again and run in warm weather?

“I’ll go anywhere my legs take me,’’ Yanes said. “I’m used to running in warm weather, to transition into real cold and snow is difficult, but it’s a challenge and I like challenges.’’