Mount Zion senior Andrew Nsuk will try to qualify for the Class AAAAA finals today when the prelims begin this afternoon at Georgia Olympics XLIII in Jefferson. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — When Mount Zion quarter and half-miler Andrew Nsuk talks about the end of his 2013 track season, he sums it up with four words.
“Last year was horrible,” Nsuk said.
A year ago, Nsuk came in ninth at Sectionals in the 800-meters and got eliminated in the preliminary round of the 400-meters at state that ended his disappointing season. Now, exactly a year later and Nsuk is ranked No.1 in Class AAAAA in the 400, while also being a favorite at state in the 800.
Plus, he has the conviction to match those expectations.
“We’re really looking forward to going down there and winning,” he said of the upcoming Georgia Olympics XLIII in Jefferson.
It should come as no surprise that Nsuk made such remarkable progress in a year’s time. After all, this is just his third year running track.
Just three years ago, the tall and slender Nsuk was a mystery to Mount Zion head coach Jason Battles.
“We didn’t even know how fast he could be, because he had been a soccer player,” Battles said. “We saw glimpses of greatness. Now, he’s like a diamond that has been polished.”
There was a feeling-out process coming to a new sport, and Nsuk had to find the right event.
“I started out running the 3,200, and then I went down to the 1,600,” Nsuk said. “Then I just kept going down from that to the 800 and the 400 and that’s where I felt most at home. It’s like soul searching. You got to find what you’re best at. You got to find out what you can be good at and what you can excel at.”
Diving headlong into his new passion, Nsuk also made a name for himself running summer track for the Georgia Stars Track Club where he competed with some of the best runners in the nation.
He credits Stars’ coaches Mike Edwards and others for picking up where Battles would leave off, keeping him focused. “They always told me ‘if you put your mind to something then you can do it,’” he said.
When Battles got Nsuk back at Mount Zion, the student was always eager to learn from the teacher.
“Coach Battles’ always been persistent with us,” Nsuk said. “He gives us the set plan and we just go forward with it.”
Battles calls Nsuk a self-starter.
“I can give him the workout and send him home to do it,” Battles added. “He’s that good.”
Nsuk, a senior, is weighing his collegiate options and will decide between joining teammates Marquett Simmons and Jonathan Ross at Limestone College, or running for Louisville or Virginia Tech.
As for his final days of high school competition, Nsuk is running better than any other period in his short career. He recently set personal records in the 400 (48.86) and 800 (1:56.23), dropping two seconds off his 800 time.
Battles expects that even better times are ahead.
“Another year or two of running and there’s no telling where he’s going to be,” Battles said. “He’s still a baby and he’s a superstar.”