Golden start

Published 9:56 pm Friday, August 14, 2009

Zakiya Rashid was already a multi-talented athlete at a young age. She was already active in cheerleading, soccer and volleyball before she picked up track and field a little less than a year ago.

“I’m an athlete in other sports, but I just wanted to do track,” said Rashid.

It’s taken Rashid, 12, less than a year with Norfolk-based Real Deal Track Club to win the gold medal in the discus last week at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Des Moines, Ia.

In her first time at the AAU Junior Olympic Games and one of her first meets outside of Virginia, Rashid was the national champion, beating a field of 43 competitors with a throw of 100 feet, 11 inches.

When Rashid asked the coaches with Real Deal about starting in the sport, they put her into the shot put and discus, “because they thought I looked strong,” said Rashid.

It’s been the perfect move. Rashid qualified for both events and the 1,500-meter race walk through district and regional qualifying meets to reach the Junior Olympics.

Through practices three days a week, meets nearly every weekend and the use of some technology, Rashid knew the progress she was making.

Rashid’s mom, Lynette McDuffie, charted all of her meet results on an excel spreadsheet. A few weeks before heading to Des Moines, Rashid learned of a Web site, youthtrack.org, which compiles AAU track and field results and rankings nationwide.

According to youthtrack, Rashid knew she was among the top midget division (11-12 years old) shot putters and discus throwers in the nation. Rashid said she was 12th in the nation in the discus prior to the AAU Olympics.

With a new personal best in the discus at the Junior Olympic Games, being the best in the country was a surprise. Rashid finished 15th in the shot put and seventh in the race walk.

Rashid’s winning distance was enough by nine inches over Kiana Phelps of Kingsley, Ia. The top three in the discus surpassed 99 feet, but no one else in the competition bested 84 feet. In the Virginia High School League Group AAA state championship meet in May, Rashid’s mark of 100-11 would’ve placed her 17th in the state.

“I want to get to the Olympics,” said Rashid, meaning the ultimate Olympic Games. Although she’s still playing soccer and volleyball at John Yeates Middle School and cheerleading for the Bennett’s Creek Warriors, track and field is first and foremost in her mind.

Rashid just laughs and nods her head “yes” at the question if she’s practicing one sport or more basically every day.

Nansemond River High’s coaches, where Rashid will attend in a couple years, will certainly be happy to have her in all four sports, but with the track team at the front of the line.