A runner at the 2011 3A South Regional outdoor track and field meet scanned the seed times for her competitors in the 400-meter dash.
“Ooh, I’m not going to let the ninth-grader beat me,” she said.
Little did that runner know, Largo High School’s Devonni Farrar and her coach, Darryl Hamilton, stood nearby. Farrar and Hamilton heard every word and believed the girl was talking about Farrar, then a freshman.
“I just looked at her and said, ‘Don’t let that girl beat you,’” Hamilton said. “... She said, ‘I’m not going to let her beat me’”
A different freshman, one from Huntingtown High School, actually had a better seed time and might have been the target of the remark, but it didn’t matter. A motivated Farrar beat the Huntingtown freshman, the over-confident older runner and everyone else, winning the race in 57.4 seconds.
“She’s a nice girl, but she’s tough as a competitor,” Hamilton said.
Farrar dropped her 400-meter dash time to 56.0 seconds at last spring’s 2A state meet, finishing third. Now, a junior, she’s aiming even higher.
“For the 400, I want to run ... 55 [seconds],” Farrar said, her hesitancy showing as she says the time before asserting herself.
“Fifty-five,” she said a bit more confidently.
Hamilton, sitting one bleacher up at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex, leaned in.
“I couldn’t hear you,” he said.
“Fifty-five!” Farrar said with feeling.
“Oh,” said Hamilton, sounding a bit disappointed in the answer.
It was pointed out it sounded like her coach believed she should be shooting for better.
“Fifty-four?” she asked.
Farrar is easy to coach. She runs the 200, 300, 500, 800 and all the relays. It’s up to Hamilton to just pick and choose.
“She can run any event, and she gives 100 percent every time she runs,” Hamilton said. “She’s a coach’s dream.”
Farrar began running in seventh grade with a team that practiced in a field behind her school. The team had only one meet, so she learned from an early age never to mail in a race.
She’s teaching those lessons to younger teammates, too. Sophomore Cayla Coleman said “mostly everybody” on Largo’s team reveres Farrar.
“I just look up to her,” Coleman said. “She’s a strong runner. I always wanted to be like her. I always ask for advice.”
Farrar showed the subtle reasons why her teammates respect her so much after winning the Prince George’s County title in the 500-meter dash in January. Coleman finished a few seconds behind Farrar, and they stood together recovering from a difficult race. Farrar regained her composure a bit quicker and retrieved water for herself and Coleman while Coleman still caught her breath.
More than just impressing with her leadership, Farrar has excelled on the track this winter. She also won the 500-meter dash at the Ed Bowie Classic and the 200-meter dash at the Jan. 10 Prince George’s Invitational.
The University of Louisville, University of Mississippi and University of Florida have shown interest in Farrar.
“The sky’s limit for her once she gets into 12th grade,” Hamilton said. “A whole lot of schools are going to recruit her.”