Sophomore J'Nea Bellamy's six-year track and field journey has been one highlighted by determination, recovery and success.
The most outstanding track performer at the AAC Championships finds herself in the mix for East Region Championships today in Jacksonville with the confidence and know-how of a seasoned veteran.
Last season, she transitioned as a high school athlete who was still relatively new to her sport, with just four years at public high schools in the Miami area as her only track experience.
From balancing weight-room training and classroom lectures to indoor and outdoor track commitments, Bellamy said she felt like she wasn't ready to mentally handle the workload as a freshman, even though she walked away with three medals in her first outdoor conference championship appearance.
"I honestly felt like I was just running. It wasn't something in my thought process. Winning the 200-meter [dash] or even coming in second at conference championships last year was not on my mind. It was not something I thought I was capable of," she said.
On top of that, she has been nursing an injury in her quad since last year, which limited her participation earlier this season. She said it's mostly been absent as of late.
"I knew everything was kind of new, so I didn't really push her hard just to keep her desire for track up. You have to allow it to grow on you," Bolden said.
But over the past month, a more energized Bellamy has modified her outlook, poised for additional postseason success.
"Success always makes it easier to accept the challenges ahead. And she has success toward the end of the season," Bolden said.
When she lined up at her three events during the AAC Championships two weeks ago, she felt a surge of confidence course through her, looking to put her inconsistent marks during postseason tune-ups in the rearview.
"A lot of people psyche themselves up before they even get to the line, but [J'Nea] doesn't care who's on the line with her. She knows that at the end of the day, you have to run that time again, and she's going to make you work for it," said redshirt junior Christal Peterson, who runs with Bellamy on the 4x100 team. "You may get out on her, but she'll say, 'I'm going to come get
"She fears nobody on the track, even me."
Bellamy would set personal bests in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes at 11.49 and 23.06 seconds.
"I don't know where the confidence came from, but I had it," Bellamy said. "I felt like I didn't do all this training and hard work for nothing. I just wanted to make it pay off, and it did."
She's hoping to carry that same momentum with her to Jacksonville, where she expects to do well enough at regionals to punch her ticket to Oregon for the NCAA Championships.
If Bellamy earns the golden ticket, it would be the second consecutive year to make it to the Big Dance.
"Her determination is what I'm most impressed with," said her father, Jon Bellamy. "I'm still amazed at the fact that she chose that sport for herself, and she's willing to work hard to get where she is."
Brian Goins is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @byBrianGoins or email him at BrianG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.