Appropriate per her name – Kevell Byrd flies when she takes to the track.
The Hahnville High alum and Dillard freshman has already made her mark in the collegiate ranks, surging to the front of the university’s track and field record books. In just her first year, Byrd has set school records in the indoor 200 and 400 meter dash events, as well as the indoor 60 meters.
Technically speaking, Byrd has garnered four record-breaking performances – her 400 meter time of 55.02 broke her own record, which she set only a day earlier at the 2022 NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships in Brookings, South Dakota.
That 400-meter mark earned her fifth place overall nationally in the event, earning her All-American status. Her 200m mark (24.74) was also set at the national championship competition. She is the first Dillard woman to earn All-American honors since Akia Armstrong in 2019.
All in all? Not a bad start to a college career.
“When I came to Dillard, my goal was to make history,” Byrd said. “And to feel like I’m moving toward that goal as a freshman, it makes me think I’m on the right track in life and know what I’m doing. I’m putting the highest expectations on myself. I’m very excited and grateful to get to this point.”
She’s quickly earned fans, among the chief of which, her coach.
“”Kevell is a flat-out superstar, she came into the championship with a race plan that was executed,” said Dillard coach Nile Legania following the national meet.”
While she dreamed big, Byrd admits she wasn’t so sure what to expect from herself upon first arriving at Dillard. The college game was somewhat intimidating at first, she said.
“I was super nervous when I got to college. It’s a bigger field … expectations are very different in college. I thought going to a smaller school, it might be similar, but I was wrong. The way our coach trains, we do it like they do at SEC schools. How I treat my body, how I treat myself … a lot has changed,” she said.
She credited her support system of teammates and coaches with helping to acclimate her and build her confidence.
Her early performances didn’t hurt that, either. When she ran the indoor 60-meter for the first time at Dillard, she set a personal record for indoor or outdoor events That was an eye-opener for her.
“Indoor times are relatively slower than outdoor times, and I opened up running times I never ran in my life,” Byrd said. “I realized that I can do this.
“In indoor track, the competition is where they say the big dogs are. And I was scared, like ‘little ol’ me, I just got here, what am I supposed to do?’ I realized I’m faster than I think I am and I put all those self-doubts aside.”
That success has only lit a fire underneath her. As she sees herself racking up strong performances and living up to her potential, it’s only made her want to work even harder to see how far she can spur herself to go.
“I’m working as hard as humanly possible,” Byrd said. “Track is a mental game. I always ran with as much effort as I could, but I feel like now, I’ve found another level I can go.”