Iyanna Alexander, 18, says running clears her mind and is one of the reasons she has continued to compete following a strong showing at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s outdoor state track meet in May.

Alexander, a 2015 graduate, competed in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes while at Baker High School, finishing in second place in the 400. That’s when coach Trent Ellis spotted the young runner, suggesting the Future Track Club would be a good fit.

“I began to train a week later with a great group of girls who I’ve become close with,” Alexander said.

Future Track Club, a summer running club in East Feliciana Parish that recruits students from area schools by providing them an opportunity to compete during track and field off seasons, has helped Alexander continue her training.

She is part of the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams along with DeKayta Alex, Terelicia Mercadel and Arriane Williams. Together, the group has traveled to Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee, competing in the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Championships.

“I’m blessed to have made it to nationals with such an amazing team,” she said. “I feel like this will help me get ready for the upcoming year and season.”

Alexander is attending Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena on a track scholarship. Originally from New Orleans, she lives in Baker with her parents, Tinika Alexander and Terrance Arnold, both high school track athletes themselves.

“My parents have always encouraged me to do my best at whatever I was involved in,” Alexander said. “I like helping people and love being involved in sports, so I helped train the football and volleyball teams in high school.”

Those experiences are why she’ll pursue a biology major with hopes of becoming a physical therapist or athletic trainer.

Alexander remembers racing against the neighborhood boys after church at age 8, and her father would always tell her she was fast, but growing up, she had zero interest in running. In ninth grade, a coach convinced her to try out for cross country, but she hated it.

“I didn’t like it but got used to it, so when track season came around, coach Lindsey Sanders noticed that I was actually more of a sprinter than a distance runner, and he convinced me to train for track,” Alexander said. “My head was still not into it, so I quit and began participating in other activities.”

By her junior year, Alexander was ready to commit to the sport and began attending practice every day, working hard. She won very few races at first and became upset with herself, refusing to speak to anyone following a loss.

“Coach Sanders would give me these motivating speeches, which made me want to work harder and try harder. By my senior year, I began to see results and the hard work finally paying off,” Alexander said.

As an 11th-grader, she ran a 62.25 in the 400 dash, but in her senior year, she set a personal best of 57.26 at the state track meet and has won many medals, ribbons and awards in the sport.

“Running helps me to think. When I have papers due or a test coming up, I run to clear my mind and just get Zen with the world,” Alexander said.