Mariam Abdul-Rashid a record breaker

Speed Academy runner sets three provincial marks

OSHAWA -- Tony Sharpe says that he hasn't seen anything like it in a long time.

The 'it' he refers to is Mariam Abdul-Rashid, a talented young runner who set three provincial indoor records in 300-, 400- and 600-metre races held at York University and Montreal.

Sharpe, who knows a thing or two about success, having won a bronze medal for Canada in the 4x100m relay at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, describes the up-and-coming track star as a leader whose maturity on the track is far beyond her years.

"Work ethic is the first thing that comes to mind," he says of the reason behind the success of Abdul-Rashid. "At her age, to be as focused as she is, I don't see it often. She is committed to over-achieving in practice, competition.

"She's so talented. She wants to work so hard, I have to back her down in practice. You have to manage the workload with her very carefully."

Abdul-Rashid, who joined Sharpe's Speed Academy Athletics Club in Pickering in September, began her provincial record-breaking string in late November at the International Youth Meet of Champions in Toronto, setting an U15 mark of 57.04 in the 400m. She followed that up with a couple of new marks in early-December at the Holiday Classic in Montreal, running in open events against competitors as old as 20, breaking the U18 record in the 300m with a time of 39.41, and the U15 record in the 600m with a new standard of 1:39.69.

"They were the first meets of the season, so the expectations weren't that high," says the 15 year old from Oshawa. "I was training hard, so it was going to be a pretty good race. When I set the record I was shocked."

Her recent success has been a natural progression over the years since first running track competitively at the age of six. She attended the Hershey Invitational Meet in Pennsylvania three years in a row, bringing together some of the top talent in North America, winning gold on each occasion, twice in the 400m and this year in the 200m.

She credits her recent record-breaking performances to the work being put in with Sharpe after switching clubs.

"Definitely the coaching," says the Grade 9 student at Eastdale Collegiate. "The new track club has been really good for me. It's the perfect match. All the athletes train really hard, so if you don't train hard you will fall behind."

Abdul-Rashid expects to be back on the starting line later this month, although she isn't sure what distances she will be running when she returns to York. Beyond that, she has friends who have competed at the Junior Nationals and Pan Am Games, levels she aspires to get to.

Tony Sharpe helps score scholarships for track and field stars

tony sharpe

Sharpe, the former Canadian Olympian, runs the Speed Academy, a developmental track and field club in Pickering, which has helped dozens of athletes get NCAA scholarships.

The club was founded in 2006 and Sharpe left his corporate account manager’s job at Bell to track athletes full-time a few years later.

“I’m a full-time coach, you know, not something people do often in Canada,” says Sharpe, 59, adding about 50 Speed Academy athletes have received scholarships.

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