With the London Olympics less than six months away Tonya Nero is seeking to create history by becoming the first local female marathon runner to compete at the quadrennial global sporting show piece. Nero has her eyes set on the 26.2 mile event in the English capital and will have to run under the 2 hour 43 minute B standard to be among the starters for the August 5 event. Nero made her debut in the marathon event clocking 3 hours 4 minutes and nine seconds at the White Rock event in Dallas, USA on December 4. She was well off the Olympic qualifying mark but speaking to the Trinidad Guardian, the 2011 NCAA Division 10,000 finalist said the cold and rainy conditions on the day of the White Rock was not suitable for such a long race: “It was impossible to generate body heat. My muscles cramped and I got hypothermia.” The Marathon is the latest event the Wichita student has added her list. Nero holds national records in the half marathon (1 hour 15 minutes 42 seconds), 10,000 (33 minutes 11 minutes 14 second), 5000m-outdoor (16:16:17), 5000-indoor (16:26:42) and 3,000-indoor (9:30:10). Nero opted to turn professional following seventh place finish in the 2011 NCAA 10K track race: “I always wanted to keep running for a lifetime, so the idea came to me while I was in college. Seeing that my times improved and that my coaches always encouraged me to keep going, I decided to continue after college.”
The Maracas runner now competes under the Empire Athletics Management team. Nero made her post-collegiate career last September with a second place finish in the Miles for Meso 5K in Alton, Illinois clocking 16 minutes 20 seconds. The 23-year-old still remains unsponsored as she has not been able to obtain a contract with the established shoe companies. “I am not a sponsored athlete but I have an agent. She would contact race managers and help me get into competitions with support for travel, hotels, and race entry fees. Otherwise, I offset on my own cost,” she said. Despite the challenges, Nero is focused on making the T&T team to London: “My main plan is to continue striving to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. I am going to take another try at a marathon. If I do not make it, then I will continue working hard towards the 2016 Olympics.” The Biological Science major is looking to next marathon in March or April. “I would like to do some races on the track along with road races. It is always good to get in something different.” On reflecting on the 2011 year where she was seventh in the women’s 10,000 at the NCAA Division One Championships and set numerous national records, Nero credits God for her achievement: “God is the number one person who is responsible for my success because I know that I can’t do anything without him. It is always great to know that He has a great plan for my life and that he wants me to use and be successful with the talents that He has given me so that I can give him all the glory.”
She added that her family has pivotal in all her undertakings: “My family has also been instrumental to my success because of all the support that they give. It feels great to have parents who did the same sport so they can give me a lot of advice. “Moreover, since I started college, I have had a line of great coaches who were always enthusiastic about running and always supporting my goals.” She singles out her mother Crelene as her inspiration: “I admire my mother everyday because I always look up to her and want to be like her. In my eyes, she is a hero and it makes me happy today to see that she continues to be her at her best.” Nero began her 2012 season with a double win at the Herm Wilson Indoor Classic in Kansas, where women’s mile (4:51:01) and 3,000m (10:11:70) races on January 14. In her stellar 2011 the former ASJA Girls student was named the top Cross Country of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference. She also copped the Dr Charlotte West Scholar-Athlete Award in the Conference. Nero is the daughter of Anthony and Crelene. Her lone sister Scarla is also a student at Wichita University. Her brother Sandino was a national athlete.