Aysha Shaheed medaled at the CIF-State Championships in both the 100m and 200m as a sophomore in 2019. (Photo: DeAnna Turner)
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SAN DIEGO -- There are dozens and dozens of girls sprinters who believe that given the opportunity to run last spring, they could have won state championships.
Madison High's Aysha Shaheed is one of them. And she probably had the best argument.
Looking at the 2019 CIF-State Track and Field Championships, Shaheed finished fourth in the 100 meters and sixth in the 200m. A closer look reveals that everyone who beat her in both races graduated. Furthermore, this three-time San Diego Section sprint champion, was the only girl in the class of 2021 to reach the final in either the 100m or 200m at the 2018 State Championships.
So, on paper, going into 2020, Shaheed was the girl to beat in the sprints.
COVID-19 changed all that.
Someone else who believes she would have swept the 100- and 200-meter dashes is her coach -- and father -- Haneef Shaheed.
Wait, wait. Doesn't every runner's coach and especially their father believe their daughter is the best? The difference here is that Haneef knows more than a little about sprinting.
The name Kenan Christon sound familiar? Even California high school track followers with short memories should recall Christon electrifying the crowd in the 2019 State Meet 100m, equaling the meet record of 10.30 seconds, and dominating the 200m, clocking 20.67 to win by more than three-tenths of a second.
Guess who coached Christon?
Right, Haneef Shaheed.
Both can make a strong case that Ashya would have won, and luckily, both hopefully will have one more chance this spring.
"Of course, I feel a little bit cheated because I was ready to go to state and win," said Aysha (pronounced A-Shaw). "I was looking to run in the low 11.30s, maybe faster. In the 200, I was looking to get under 24.
"It was devastating not getting to go. It was a very depressing time -- heartbreaking. Last year should have been my year to show what I could do, it was something I'd been preparing for my whole life."
2019 CIF-STATE TF CHAMPIONSHIPS - GIRLS 100m FINAL
Aysha Shaheed's bests in 2019, as a sophomore, were a windy 11.57 for 100m and a legal 24.16 over 200m. She is a two-time SDS champion for 100m and is the defending section champion for 200m.
Haneef said the 5-foot-8 Aysha, who displayed her athleticism by playing on two SDS championship basketball teams, would have run eye-popping times.
"She would have broken the (San Diego) section record in the 100 (11.43 by Oceanside El Camino's Jasmine Gibbs in 2012) and would have been around 23.60 in the 200," said Haneef, who was Jimmy Kegler when he ran for San Diego High in 2000.
That projected time in the 200m would have been fourth all-time behind Morse's Monique Henderson's 23.16 in 2001.
"That 200 record will probably never be broken," Haneef said. "The thing is, in both her freshman and sophomore seasons, Aysha played on the basketball team well into March."
While both are hoping for even better times than what they were looking at last year, both just aren't sure things will be the same. At least with the shortened seasons, Aysha will be able to focus on track where she signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University of California.
"Things are not a normal five-day week now," said Haneef, who also coaches the Havoc Track Team which has close to 100 athletes in almost every event, competing in the USATF Imperial Assn. "Aysha (who maintains a 3.4 GPA) goes to class online, she can't use the weight room at school and we can't use the track at Madison.
"We are going to a few club meets and, of course, we are hoping to have a full track season this spring. She needs to show me and everyone she's ready to go into college competition."
Haneef went to the State Meet as a high school senior and his very first race was against the legendary Quincy Watts.
"I thought I was pretty good but what I learned and have been able to pass along to others is there are a whole lot of good runners just to north of San Diego and nationwide and you can't get caught up in how good you are here," said Haneef.
"Kenan Christon, who is like a second son, learned his lesson when he lost at the Mt. Carmel Invitational and as competitive as he was, it was the best thing that could have happened to him."
Christon, by the way, now a freshman at USC, started the 2020 outdoor season by running a 10.39 at the Beach Opener in Long Beach before the season was shut down. He is currently a member of the Trojans football team.
Haneef went to San Diego Mesa College for two years, where he ran for the late Arnie Robinson, before moving on to Arizona State where he ran for Tom Jones, learning a love for the sport that carries on today.
Aysha isn't sure how things are going to go this spring, but she can't wait to get back in the blocks.
"We go to a park to train," said Aysha. "There are a couple of softball fields and we can get in 100 meters. My older brother (Rashid) has some weights we can use at home and I'm trying to push my sister (freshman Amirah Shaheed) to be even better than I am."
Her comments about her sister tell another side of Aysha.
Admitting she's not nearly as competitive as Kenan Christon, she says her approach is to be friendly and outgoing with the competition, wishing every opponent will do their best. Her reasoning is if they excel it will push her to also excel.
Aysha got off to a fast start when she got into track as a 7-year-old, mostly because she wanted to run like Rashid, who won a section 2016 400-meter title at Mt. Carmel High and runs at Weber State.
Her first major taste of success came in 2013 when she won the California State Games in the 100, 200 and long jump as a 7-year-old competing in the 10-under division. She still long jumps occasionally but like basketball, she knows the sprints are her future.
Aysha says the one thing that COVID-19 did was make her far more focused -- which is a strong statement since she says when she gets in the starting blocks she's able to block out everything.
"I'm more motivated and focused than ever," said Aysha, who has been working hard to improve her start. "I have something to prove this year and I'm eager to compete."
2019 CIF-STATE TF CHAMPIONSHIPS - GIRLS 200m FINAL
One might imagine running for one's father could present some obstacles.
"I'm her coach on the track but when we stop, that stops," said Haneef. "After a workout or meet, I might ask general questions on the way home but once that meet or practice is over, we move on. I try my best to be a dad off the track and a good coach on the track."
"I can talk to my dad about anything," said the 17-year-old who turns 18 in early February. "He understands me more than anyone. He knows my limits. He knows what I like and do not like. He's a great coach and I know he wants what's best for me.
"He's never reduced me to tears or been mad at me. We discuss a race then move past it. Mostly technical stuff. When it's all over, my dad will still be there."
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Inserted photos courtesy of the Shaheed Family.