INDIANAPOLIS– Once the air horn sounds, getting around one lap is straightforward.
In a matter of seconds, runners leave it all on the track. When a foot sprints across the line– sometimes, something amazing happens!
“Oh my gosh, I’m an Olympian!” exclaimed Lynna Irby, a 2020 USA Track & Field competitor.
That title is still settling in for the Indianapolis native.
She’s a sprinting phenom, who at 9-years-old just happened to fall into track.
“I was at my little brother’s basketball practice, racing kids up and down the court, and some of the coaches were late,” the 22-year-old described. “I was beating the boys, and the funniest part about the story is I was beating the boys with a broken arm.”
Indiana Storm track head coach Michael Vinson and her mom took notice.
“To be truthfully honest, when she was like 10, 11, 12 (years-old), I wasn’t thinking long-term that she was going to be an Olympian. I was just like, ‘She’s a kid; kids do sports,'” said the Olympian’s mom, Nakela Irby.
But kids don’t usually break sports records– not once, but three times in one year. She won the state title for the 100m, 200m, and 400m races in 2014. Irby claimed those same titles back to back to back in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Her entire high school career she swept the sprinting races with 1st place finishes.
The clock doesn’t lie, you can’t forge times, you cant make up things. Your talent is put on full display whenever you show up.Lynna Irby, 2020 USA Track & Field Olympian
Irby showed up at 50.35 seconds at the Olympic trials for the 400-meter race.
The time landed the former University of Georgia bulldog & NCAA champion a spot on Team USA as a relay sprinter
“It was never a thought in my mind or a question in my mind if she was going to be one. It was just when, it was just when,” stresses, Dee Dee Nathan, Irby’s former coach.
Irby’s former Pike Township High School head coach trained her to go for the gold, which isn’t surprising considering Nathan was an Olympian.
She competed in the 2000 Olympics in the heptathlon, which are seven track and field events, sprinting hurdles, long jump, and javelin among them.
“My experience was amazing; I was 32 though, so by the time—I missed two Olympic teams prior to making the third one so it — it was amazing,” the Indiana state titleholder described her time in Sydney, Australia.
21 years later, the Indiana University hall-of-famer is watching her runner, Irby. follow her footsteps.
For Irby, it’s been a race of a lifetime to Tokyo, one with stumbles too.
“…as a dark skin Black woman in this sport—I have definitely felt overlooked at times, but the thing about track and field, the clock doesn’t lie,” Irby repeats.
That repeated mantra is the only one that matters for the Adidas-sponsored athlete.
“Now that she’s going to the Olympics and she’ll be running in Tokyo, I’m like, ‘Good I can just see the payout.’ It’s just fantastic,” the mom exclaimed!
Still, it’s a bittersweet moment for the star athlete’s family, who expected & prepared to cheer her on in Tokyo.
“We had all planned to go to Tokyo, we were going to be there, and then Covid happened,” Irby reflected. “That was devastating.”
Despite this, “Team Lynna” isn’t worried because as her former coach said, “She was born to run—that’s what she does.”
The 22-year-old agrees, but she doesn’t let her wins & medals blind her. In fact, a majority of her accomplishments are kept out of sight in the garage of her childhood home. As her mother explains, Lynna prefers it that way so, “her head doesn’t get big.” Both Irby women believe humility will take her a long way.
“We train really hard for 10 months and then we get that one race that is perfect and it’s like, ‘Yes’,” she beamed! “Wow, I’m really an Olympian, I’m really on this team. It’s time to—come on, this is crazy, I’m an Olympian!”
Irby will represent Team USA in the 4×4 women’s relay and mixed relay and could race as early as the week of July 26th in Tokyo.