Abdi Hassan’s story has a lot in common with the story of a large group of other runners who have found a place in the top ranks of HS athletes.
It is the things that are not common that made this account of particular interest to me.
Abdi’s journey and his attitude toward it is what makes this track star stand out.
Abdi is an immigrant from Somalia, alone with his father and estranged from the rest of his family, he faces an entire aspect of life as a HS elite athlete that most of us could barely imagine.
This detail may give Abdi an edge in the game, not because of his nationality but because of a unique insight and awareness of opportunity, potential and responsibility to act when the time is right.
When asked if he thought his nationality an advantage he made it clear that, at this level of competition, every athlete faces the exact same challenges and must muster the same courage and purpose. The demands of this level exceed far beyond anything that a nationality advantage could offer. The key to success at this level is something that all of these athletes possess regardless of the different ways they got to be where the are.
Abdi started his HS running journey a lot like many others. He started at TYEE high school, considered himself a Soccer player and ran XC just to stay in shape for his first sport.
His first 2 years of XC were average for him but above average for most. He finished at State as a freshman with a 17:30.
His sophomore year moved him to tenth place with a 16:10
With no special training and minimal summer base training, Abdi ran these times on pure natural ability.
At this point he was still running to play soccer in the spring and track was not on the table.
Then something happened which was one of those perfect alignments of lucky events.
His father moved work to a research position further south.
Abdi transferred to Nathan Hale where his path crossed with Cary Stidham.
This turned into a magic mix. The right athlete, the right coach, the right time.
Weekly training milage seems to play an important role in the stories of theses top guys. Some runners swear the key to success at the end of the day is a grueling summer load pushing over 80 miles a week, some runners excel with a lot less.
Abdi came off of serious hamstring damage both the end of last spring year and this fall year and was forced to cut back his summer and winter preparations. On average he logged 30 mile a week. With a firm trust in his coach and a growing awareness of his firm purpose, Abdi found the opportunity and value of his training plan and plugged into it.
His first Track season as a Junior put him on the map with a third place 3200 9:18 and a first place mile at 4:17
Abdi found himself doing inventory with the likes of Max Odonoghue-McDonald and Matt Frerker and Ryan Prentice, and started thinking of himself along with the best.
At this point of awareness with other athletes, I have heard others talk about the hard work to do, the need to track on and triumph over the competition, the dogged commitment to the training the process and the work in order to excel. It seems like they are describing a challenge and a journey which they are driven to and must undertake.
Abdi relates his tale and describes his place in it with a pleasure and joy which I have not seen until my talk with him. With a twinkle in his eye and genuine glee he talks about dealing with pre- race nerves, grueling races, race disappointment, and the process of finding what it takes to siphon past the likes of Nectaly ,Max and Matt, ??????
Many athletes as they merge into the elite ranks find it hard to negotiate without losing focus on what is what. Many start to take success for granted, many lose their edge, many focus way to much and lose site of their competition’s ability.
Abdi has taken all this in stride, perhaps because the lack of media attention kept him under the radar, perhaps his own awareness of the magic and pleasure of his unique opportunity, perhaps his coaches awareness of all of this.
Except for one mishap at Arcadia this season, Abdi has consistently showed up for every race he runs, prepared to do what is needed and has done it.
He plastered a grueling topple of the reigning 800 meter powerhouse, Nectaly Barbosa, burned his name at State doubling first places in the 800 1:54.78 and 1600 4:13.75 and moved on to NON taking 4th in the national pack with a pr of 1"50.9
Even with all this, Abdi finds and lives a thrill and awareness of what he was capable of and what opportunity is on the table.
He talks about his colleagues with respect and mentions his name along their’s with a sense of pride and honor.
Abdi clocked 1:49.9 in the 800 at the CNW all comers meet in Redmond,Washington last Wednesday and is showing up again on July 4 the take a crack at 1:48 and the State all time record.
Right now his is ranked 2cnd all time WA and 4th national for this year.
Abdi will be running for the University of Arizona in the fall.