The day of the Grand Island Invitational started out a bit on the chilly side, so Dajaz DeFrand took the necessary precautions before running her 100-meter dash.
“It warmed up by the time I was about to run, but it was really windy,” the 5-foot-5 Lincoln High School junior said. “So I made sure I didn’t sit down for a long time, made sure I kept everything (sweats) on and just kind of kept moving.”
A record was set shortly after. DeFrand ran the fastest electronic time in Nebraska girls high school history with 11.67 seconds.
Last week at the Papillion-La Vista South/Titan Classic, DeFrand ran an 11.79 in the 100, which was a meet record. She then rattled off a second meet record that day in the 200 with 24.52, which tied for third on the state’s all-time electronic-timing list.
Who is the Links’ junior enjoying a blazing star to the track season? She was born in Aurora, Colo., and moved to Lincoln during her freshman year to live and train with her dad, Donald, a former Husker football player. She’s enjoying her time in Nebraska, although in her opinion, nothing beats the scenery of the Centennial State.
“I’m kind of used to seeing the mountains and stuff, but it’s still nice here,” DeFrand said.
Basketball was DeFrand’s first sport as a young kid — she enjoyed the team aspect — but once she ran in her first track meet, it was clear where her future lies. She beat everyone in the sprints, and easily.
Track and family very much go together, too, DeFrand says. The relationship with her parents is strong, especially with her mom, LaQuanda, who still travels to Dajaz’s meets while living in Colorado.
“I love that it makes my family happy, and mostly my mom because almost every track meet she cries. She gets more nervous than me,” Dajaz said. “I just like to see everybody happy, and that makes me feel good that I’m actually doing something that my younger siblings can look up to. It’s a great feeling to have.”
DeFrand has three sisters who live with mom in Colorado, and two brothers who live with her in Lincoln.
“My mom has made a lot of sacrifices for me, not even just in track but in general and with everything I do,” Dajaz said. “She’s my biggest supporter and my biggest fan. When she’s there, it’s almost like a sign of relief. Every time I run I can hear her screaming my name, and on recordings of my races you can always hear my mom. She just pushes me.”
Donald has been Dajaz’s coach in just about everything she’s competed in. He could’ve went the track route in college himself, but chose football instead.
“My dad’s been my coach, so I came here because it’d be easier and more convenient for me,” Dajaz said. “He really makes sure that I learn all the technical parts to it, and he just wants to give me the best opportunity he can.”
Donald sees the potential in Dajaz.
“She’s very competitive and she doesn’t like to lose. She’s embracing the challenge, and she hasn’t even met her potential yet,” he said. “She hasn’t gotten there yet. So we all know once she gets to the next level, the sky’s the limit for her. She’s just a kid right now running, so once she puts everything together she’s going to do big things.”
Donald knows the family aspect is alive and well at meets, too. He hears it just like Dajaz does.
“I try to stay off to the side because I’m a laid-back guy,” Donald said with a smile. “But mom is loud and she’s going to let it be known that she’s in the stands and she’s going to let her baby know she’s there.”
Track takes up the majority of Dajaz’s time, but she has interests outside of sprinting, too. She likes artwork, and has started to paint and crochet.
Make no mistake about it, though: sprinting and competing is what gets her fired up. She didn’t think her success would come so early in the season and her high school career.
DeFrand couldn’t compete for the Links’ varsity team as a freshman after having to sit out due to moving, then Covid wiped out her entire sophomore season. So when she clocked in with 11.67 in Grand Island, it was a bit of a shock.
“Since I hadn’t been running a lot, I thought it was going to take a while to get back to where I was,” she said. “But my mom was always like, ‘No, you’re going to run this time and you’re going to run that time,’ and I was just thinking, ‘Let’s be realistic here.’ But after that race in Grand Island, I looked at the clock and was like, ‘Wow.’”
The 100 is the event where she’s getting noticed, but if you ask Dajaz, the 200 is probably her top event.
“I hate to say it, but the 200 is my best race, but I don’t like it,” she said with a laugh. “With the 200, you have to be at the top of your game, because it’s the longer race. But in the past the 200 has been my best race because I’m good at the curve.”
Having favorable conditions on track days is crucial. DeFrand says if it’s on the colder side, she wants to make sure she’s layered in clothing from head to toe. If that’s not the case, she’s not going to meet her goal.
“If, say, you take off your sweats and stuff, it’s going to be hard to keep your body going and you can easily pull a muscle doing that and you’re not going to do the best you can,” she said. “Your body just isn’t heated up.”
DeFrand says her goal each meet is to stay injury-free and keep beating her own times. There’s no talk about records.
“I just want to run my own race,” she said. “I’m not really looking to get records or anything, I’m just trying to improve on myself.”
Said Donald: “Her goal is to PR each week, and she knows that if she tries to chase a record, sometimes it puts too much pressure on you. So she’s grown to realize that. I just tell her to focus on school, continue to be a kid and run track.”
To reach those goals, DeFrand knows she needs to take the sport seriously — both in mind and body.
Dajaz’s mom sends her a prayer she reads before every race. She listens to hip hop before running and will call LaQuanda quick if she feels off that day — that gets her in a good mood.
She doesn’t drink soda very often — it’s mostly water and gatorade when she wants electrolytes. She drinks protein shakes and is on meals plans that she and one of her sisters do together, which helps them stay in touch. She exorcises and weight trains all year long, not just during track.
DeFrand wants to earn a full-ride Division I scholarship. She wants to compete at a school where her family could easily visit and she could study pre-med. She likes the idea of being a physical trainer when she grows up.
Sha’Carri Richardson, a former sprinter at LSU who recently turned pro, is someone DeFrand looks up to. Richardson became the sixth-fastest woman in world history in the 100 after recording a 10.72 at the Miramar Invitational on April 10.
“If track could take me all the way to the Olympics, then of course I’ll want to do that,” DeFrand said.
No need to worry about that just yet, though. For now, DeFrand wants to keep improving. Keep beating her previous best.
The state will be watching.