Nataliyah Friar is no stranger to the sound of the firing shot before a track and field race. Track and field has been apart of her life since she was in the eighth grade, where she first began dreaming of winning more medals than her mother, who also ran track in college.
Like her mother, Friar fell in love with track and field, a sport that would change her life forever.
“I always looked up to my mother,” said Friar. “She is the reason I decided to try the sport out.”
Thanks to Friar’s mother and Friar’s commitment to the sport, she earned a spot to compete with LSU women’s track and field team as runner and jumper.
LSU recruits and produces some of the best athletes in women’s track and field, one of the reasons why Friar chose to attend the university.
“I knew that if I practiced with the best, that I would soon become the best,” Friar said. “Many Olympic athletes have come out of LSU, and I wanted to be a part of a well-organized program.”
Friar’s track and field events include the long jump, triple jump, 60-meter dash and the 4×100 meters.
At LSU, Friar competed for Team USA in the 2015 World University games that took place in Gwangju, South Korea, placing fifth in long jump and second in the 4×100.
While keeping up with her personal goal of getting more medals than her mother, the Wentzville, Mo., native made history on her track and field journey when she became the fifth person in Missouri state history to win three individual events three years in a row.
Although Friar has witnessed success on the track, participating in the sport has also helped her to become a better person in other aspects of her life.
“Track has taught me the importance of time management and being a team player,” Friar said. “It has taught me to never compare myself to others, to appreciate my own unique talents that sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom before ultimately reaching your goals.”
Time management is key for Friar. She understands the concept of being a true student athlete, putting her books and career first before racing on the track.
“I understand that sport wont last forever and it is important to have an education and a degree to fall back on,” Friar said. “I want to be the best athlete but I also want to unlock my full potential. No one wants to be labeled with the ‘dumb athlete’ stereotype.”
Thus, in addition to her being a college athlete, Friar is earning a degree in psychology, volunteering and speaking to children about the importance of education and what it is like to be a student athlete.
Friar also worked as a research assistant to a doctoral student, helping her to find the best method of helping students struggling with math.
Currently, Friar works as an advanced calls specialist at Baton Rouge Crisis Center, where she offers prevention, intervention and post intervention services, provides support in times of crisis and reduces impact of suicide in the community through phone and chat services.
For Friar, who wants to be a counselor in the future, working in the Crisis Center is the perfect start to prepare her for the future.
One of the biggest components of working as a counselor is one’s ability to understand and appreciate the difference in the beliefs and thoughts of others.
In two words, diversity matters. Friar believes that everyone should be embraced no matter their background, race, religion or views.
“People from different backgrounds provide different perspectives on life,” Friar said. “It is good to have several ideas and ways to do things, rather than use a normal way that people are used to. This is what makes us unique.”
As Friar prepares to transition from the race track to the professional track as a counselor, she will hold on to her on and off the field lessons from running track to help her in the future.
Life is about building relationships. For Friar, good relationships can you take you very far in life.
“You never know how badly off someone may be but by always being kind and helpful, it can take you far in life,” Friar said. “I hope to one day be a voice for children who may be afraid to speak up on their own or for those who need a listening ear. Life comes with many ups and downs but you can’t enjoy the highs without the lows.”