UConn track and field star Mahamed Sharif made the trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, this weekend to take part in the indoor NCAA Championships. With only the top 16 athletes from across the country qualifying for the 800m event, the field was always going to be fierce. Sharif finished No. 12 place overall, with a 1:52.23 clocking.
Although this time may seem well off his personal best, the race was far from conducive to fast running. With inconsistent lap times and messy pack antics, none of the times were that fast in comparison to their seeds. After the race, Sharif even commented that it was “the worst race, [but] that’s the game.” Far from fazed by the result, he went on to say that “this was just for the storyline,” as he looks towards the outdoor season.
Always one for setting lofty goals, Sharif’s eyes are on getting to 1:45, which seems achievable given that outdoor times tend to be faster than indoor. This would put him in great shape to race well at the outdoor NCAA Championships later this year. As he went into the championship to win it, and certainly not “for giggles,” he said that his focus is on becoming the best racer on any given day.
Despite the result not panning out how Sharif envisioned, he also is very aware of the fact that this is part of a steep learning curve. “When you’re there at that level you age really fast,”he noted as he reflected on the race. His positive attitude towards his next competition shines through, as his mindset seems to be unbreakable.
Coaches Beth Alford-Sullivan and Austin Whitelaw also made the trip to New Mexico, and Sharif gave them a scare as he seemed to wobble on the start line before the gun, resulting in the race having to restart. He said that he saw the panic in the coaches’ faces, but that he was not worried at all. He put it down to having to lean in on the banked track, where it is hard to hold the set position for more than a second. He also never crossed the line, so ultimately did not false start. The nerves of the onlookers was quickly stemmed, however, as he simply smiled and returned to the start line.
Overall, Sharif’s first appearance at an NCAA championship may not have yielded the outcome he was looking for, but it was an important stepping stone in order to go on to better things in the outdoor season. “I belong here” was the most powerful statement he could make, and his performance against the toughest collegiate field in the country only confirmed that fact.
The track and field squad will be taking a trip to Florida over spring break, with the squad potentially competing at the UCF Black and Gold meet in Orlando.