Rashid’s recruiting flurry

Published 10:40pm Saturday, July 19, 2014

Nansemond River track star a hot prospect

Nansemond River High School rising senior track and field star Zakiya Rashid, center, is currently a focus of the intense college recruiting process that accompanies talented student-athletes.
Nansemond River High School rising senior track and field star Zakiya Rashid, center, is currently a focus of the intense college recruiting process that accompanies talented student-athletes.

Want an idea how hot a prospect a high school senior is in her chosen sport? Find out how much time she spent on the phone with recruiters on the first day of July.

“On July 1 of any year is when college coaches can contact rising seniors,” Nansemond River High School track and field coach Justin Byron explained this week.

July 1 was a big day for Zakiya Rashid.

The Warriors’ rising senior track and field star started getting telephone calls at 9 a.m. By the end of the day, she had heard from recruiters at seven different colleges.

“It was interesting, a lot of people calling,” she said.

Among the schools that contacted her on July 1 alone, she said, were the University of South Carolina, University of Pittsburgh, Virginia Military Institute and Southern Illinois University.

The courting period had begun, with schools looking to gain her commitment as soon as possible. The earliest Rashid could formally commit by signing a National Letter of Intent is during the small window of the second week of November. If she doesn’t make that early commitment, then April 8 is National Signing Day.

Colleges waste little time trying to nail down the athletes they’re interested in, as evidenced by the recruitment of Michael Cherry, who won three New Balance national championships while a student-athlete at Oscar Smith High School.

“He was getting calls at midnight on July 1,” Byron said.

Cherry was courted by high-profile schools, like Florida State University where he goes now.

But Byron said Rashid has been contacted by more total schools from all levels because of her versatility, being a state champion in the shot put and also an elite runner and hurdler.

“Zakiya’s will be probably the most interesting process I’ve ever been a part of,” Byron said.

He said college recruiting has always involved a big rush, but he noted the Internet has helped take the process to another level.

“These coaches have instant access to everything these kids are doing,” he said.

It affects every sport, but particularly track and field, since times and distances are universal, influenced little by the circumstances in which they were achieved.

And the recruiting process demands a lot of the young student-athletes.

“It takes an enormous amount of maturity,” Byron said. Estimating the average year of college to cost $25,000, he said for youths receiving multiple full ride offers, “you’re talking about a 17-year-old making a $100,000 decision,” while juggling their other responsibilities.

“Even as part of the system of Nansemond River, we try our best to teach the kids humility,” he said. He also mentioned another thing that helps: “It’s good that it’s more than just one of them.”

Rising seniors Kara Lyles, Kadeem Middleton and Candice James are also receiving interest.

Summing up the recruiting process, Rashid said, “I think that sometimes it’s a little stressful, but it’s fun to go through it, to consider colleges and having colleges consider you as one of their athletes. It’s real cool.”

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