by Jamaar Hawkins, i64sports
Last week’s Class 5A region championship was the second in three years for Maury girls track and field head coach Iman Islam. Now, Islam and the Lady Commodores await next week’s state championships, seeking the school’s first-ever title, finishing runner-up on four occasions.
Coach E as Islam is most affectionately known, is in his third “official” season as head coach of the girls program and doesn’t appear to be leaving anytime soon.
“Track at our school has grown a lot and winning breeds a different culture, but it’s other programs moving in the right direction in Norfolk. Norview and Granby both are moving in the right directions,” Islam noted.
Islam originally got his start with the Norfolk Real Deal Track & Field Club under the tutelage of legendary coach Walt Green, who also trained Merritt and many past and present Hampton Roads track & field standouts. Islam counts Merritt, Derron Flood, Grant Holloway. Marlon Woods and of course his own sister Shamaiya Islam as some of the greatest local runners that he has witnessed, while admitting it’s typically unfair to choose the best from such an accomplished group.
Still, in typical Islam fashion the coach, who earned 2017 Outdoor Coach of the Year honors, continued to rattle off a who’s who of star track athletes from the Hampton Roads area: Rachelle Boone, Yvette Lewis, James Taylor and Keilah Tyson. Even one of his former runners, Brooke Stith, now sophomore at East Carolina University, all cracked Islam’s all-time list in case you were wondering.
This year’s Commodores squad relies on sprinter Junyce Hasberry, who won the 55-meter dash at last weekend’s region championships. Hasberry also won the 55 meter dash (7.21 seconds), 300 dash (42.39), 55 hurdles (8.72) and long jump (17 feet, 11 inches) in leading the Lady Commodores to the Eastern District crown. Maury appears to rolling at just the right time, steering more than 40 points clear of second place Bethel in capturing the region championship.
“We did well as a whole team, but this was not what we expected with so many injuries in key events,” Islam said on his mindset heading into the meet.
Success not only breeds a different mentality, but at times a new rival. In Maury’s case, Nansemond River has been the roadblock blocking a Lady Commodore state title.
“We have a rivalry which is Nansemond River and we have a great relationship with the coaches and runners. But we have been working to get to the type of program they have been for the past six to seven years. they really push us to be better and get to the top like them sad we are the lil sister of the rivalry cuz they kick our tails a lot,” Islam added.
What Islam and track coaches in general can agree on is the lack of media coverage dedicated to the sport worldwide. Even with Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt in the 757’s backyard dominating the track circuit as a standout at Woodrow Wilson High School.
“Track doesn’t get the proper exposure not just in this area, but everywhere. Even after the Olympics I was with Lashawn and nobody knew who he was. That’s just the reality of track,” Islam said.
For now, Islam’s focus remains on bringing the program its first-ever state title.
“It would be a blessing and everything to be the first to win a title in school history these girls will become legend,” Islam said of a potential state championship.