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March 14, 2012

Architect Major Builds Strong Track Career

By: Marc Mullen

Hasheem Halim came to Tech because of the architecture program, but he also walked on to the track and field team and has constructed himself into an All-American

Tech fans certainly know a lot about the exploits of the Hokies’ 2011 All-American triple jumper David Wilson, who decided to forgo his senior year of college and enter the NFL Draft after a terrific campaign on the gridiron, which ultimately meant the ACC Player of the Year in football would no longer compete for the track team as well.

But those fans probably know little, if anything, about the school’s best ever triple jumper who was, in fact, a teammate of Wilson’s and has bettered him on many occasions on the runway.

That man is Hasheem Halim, a senior from Lilburn, Ga. For the fourth straight year, Halim earned All-ACC honors at the conference’s indoor meet in the triple jump, reset his school record in the process and just recently competed at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships, the third qualification in his career.

Not bad for a man overshadowed by a football star, a man who chose Tech purely on its architecture program and a man who basically recruited himself onto the team.

“My first NCAA Indoor Championship [in 2010] was really exciting because, coming into college, I was just like, ‘I’m going to do architecture, but hey, let me do track as well while I’m here,’” Halim said. “I didn’t expect to do that well. I actually didn’t even know if I was going to do it all four years either because architecture is pretty hard.

“But my first [NCAA Championships] was almost like a welcome to the club. Welcome to the elite athlete club. At least that’s how indoors felt to me. Outdoors, you have 24 people in each event, while indoors you have just 16 of the top marks from the whole year, so you really have to be elite to go there.

“So it really just felt like I was introduced to what you want to strive for. I actually called my brother [Muhammad] right before I competed, and he just told me to have fun and that really relaxed me.”

Muhammad would be one of Hasheem Halim’s 10 siblings – the family consists of six boys and five girls and Hasheem is the ninth of 11. Muhammad was a triple jumper at Cornell and could be jumping for the U.S. Virgin Islands’ team in the 2012 Olympics in London.

“Yeah, he qualified with a jump of 16.87 [meters], which is the Olympic ‘B’ standard,” Hasheem said. “So he’s challenged me to beat that. If I beat that, then that actually knocks him out, and I would go. For us to both go, we’d both have to get the ‘A’ standard, which is 17.20, which is crazy.”

Hasheem credits another older brother, Kamau, who jumped at the University of Buffalo, for introducing him to the sport, and Muhammad for really keeping him focused and helping him further progress in it.

“I interface with Muhammad a lot,” Halim said. “I shoot him videos at times, and he tells me certain things about my technique.”

But there really isn’t a sibling rivalry between the brothers since their ages are a bit apart. And according to Hasheem, he and Muhammad have only been at the same events a handful of times.

“It’s weird because we are so far apart that there’s really never been that competition between us,” he said. “I’ve competed against him three times, and all three times, I’ve had a bad meet. One day, I’ll beat him. I’m getting there.

“He came to a couple of meets here unattached, so I competed against him here. The other time was a summer in Puerto Rico when we were both competing for the Virgin Islands, so that was really special because we never really had competed on the same team before. It was really interesting, but he beat me again.”

Born, like his brother, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hasheem spent just two years there before moving to a small town in the state of New York. Growing up, Halim said his parents stressed getting a good education rather than athletics, and as he rattled off some of his siblings’ occupations, the children definitely got the message.

“They are scattered up and down the East Coast – Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Atlanta, Tampa,” he said. “My brother works on delivery software. One’s a web developer, one works in the hotel industry, one works at a hospital … so it just varies.”

And then there is Halim, who wants to be an architect. Yeah, he’s seen Seinfeld. He knows the dream of George Costanza, who always wanted to be an architect and finally takes on the persona of Art Vandelay in one of the series’ final episodes. He understands how his decision may seem a bit misconstrued.

“People are usually surprised when I tell them my major, and I use that as motivation,” he said. “They look at me and think ‘Oh, he’s here because he’s an athlete,’ or sometimes it’s the other way around and they say, ‘He’s here just to do architecture and is just doing track on the side.’

“So that’s kind of my motivation for doing so well in both. That’s kind of why it was such an achievement to get academic All-America [in 2010], just to inspire other people that you can do it if you want.”

True, not only did Halim out-jump Wilson at last year’s NCAA Outdoor Championships in the triple jump (lacing fourth in a career-best 16.25 meters, just shy of the outdoor school record), and claim his first ACC triple jump title a month prior, but he was also named to the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches’ Association All-Academic Team for the second time.

However, his road to that honor wasn’t as smooth as one might think. Again, Halim is listed from Georgia because his family made that move just before he started high school. What kid would have wanted that?

“I’m actually really grateful we did move” Halim said. “Of course, at first, I was miserable because all I’ve known was up there. I grew up in a predominately white, Christian, small town (Albion, N.Y.) and then we moved to a suburb of Atlanta.

“So I got introduced to a whole array of ethnicities, nationalities, languages and lifestyles. It was really eye opening, and it enabled me to break down a lot of stereotypes that I had held myself. It started to help in the way I shaped the world. So I was really glad for that.”

He competed on the JV squad his freshman year at Berkmar High School and then excelled his final three years on the varsity squad, earning Gwinnett County Field Athlete of the Year as a senior in 2008. However, offers for the holder of best prep marks in the long and triple jumper were few.

“I actually recruited myself here,” Halim said. “I emailed the then-sprint coach Boogie [Lawrence] Johnson, and then we talked on the phone and he said that I could run. So I was kind of asking them to run instead of the other way around. I had gotten some letters from Georgia Tech and Akron, in Ohio, and I had taken a visit to Cornell, which is where my brother went.

“And I guess there’s always that chip on your shoulder to prove that anybody has a chance at being really good – coming in as a walk-on and being able to do what I do with determination and just using a lot of self-motivation to achieve my goals.”

Before this piece is through, though, be aware that in no way is it intended to slight the achievements of Wilson. In fact, Halim has nothing but great things to say about him.

“Selfishly, I wanted him [Wilson] to stay because he’s a great buddy to compete with and practice with every day,” Halim said. “But honestly, I wanted him to go pro. Knowing how short a running back’s lifespan can be in the NFL, just take it while you can.

“As a person, you never knew what to expect with him because he’s really funny, charismatic. But you could never be complacent with him at practice because you never wanted to be shown up. I had this thing where I didn’t want to be shown up by him because he was just so great on the football field. I’m like, ‘I have to keep this my track!’ But it was just always good with him bumping me up like that.”

Interestingly enough, though, Halim does remember that Wilson’s other home was what first caught his eye when he first came into Blacksburg.

“I enjoy the scale of Lane Stadium,” he said. “I just remember when I first saw Lane Stadium. I just remember seeing the stands because you can’t see the field from the outside, I just saw the stands going to nothing, and just thought ‘Man that’s huge.’”

Spoken like a true architect major. After all, he’s already built a great career since arriving in Blacksburg. It only stands to reason that bigger things await.