Former Port Neches-Groves star punches ticket to nationals in 400-meter dash

Published 12:34 am Thursday, June 1, 2023

NATCHITOCHES, Louisiana — Sanaria Butler has had one of the best seasons a freshman has had at Northwestern State.
She wasn’t about to have it end just yet.

Butler, the Southland Conference Female Athlete of the Year, etched her name even more into the NSU record books, earning a spot at nationals on the final day of the NCAA East prelims Saturday evening.

The freshman, running in lane No. 6, came from behind once again to earn a spot in the 400-meter dash at nationals in Austin (which begin June 8), clocking a 53.88, a half-second before Purdue’s Cierra Williams.

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“Sanaria continues to impress,” sprints coach Adam Pennington said. “She has had such an impressive season and continues to show up at the right time. This is my first 400m runner to advance to NCAAs so it’s definitely an exciting moment.

“She has worked really hard to put herself in this position. And to do it against the best in the NCAA as a freshman is very rare. She will be competing for a USA spot on the junior team in Oregon in July so this is a great race prior.”

Butler is well known to Southeast Texas track and field followers after her amazing career at Port Neches-Groves High School.

She won a state championship in the long jump in 2022 after posting a leap of 19-07.75. She also came in third in the triple jump and second in the 400m dash.

That success is continuing in college.

Butler is the first Northwestern State University freshman to advance to nationals in an individual event since Cody Fillinich in the javelin in 2005 and first female since Samantha Ford in the javelin in 2003.

A Port Arthur native, Butler is heading back to her home state for nationals.

Nationals begin June 8 for Butler with the preliminaries. The final is held two days later.

— Written by Jonathon Zenk, assistant director of communications for Northwestern State University.