4-10 Derby track and field (Aneesa Abdul-Hameed)

Aneesa Abdul-Hameed isn’t being shy about her expectations. It doesn’t come as a surprise either to anyone who sat inside Cessna Stadium in late May 2018 or 2019.

As a freshman, the Derby sprinter qualified in three events and medaled in the 400M. She followed that performance with four events at state as a sophomore, participating in a new school record in the 4x100M relay (4th, 49.66, alongside Jada Hopson, Chloe Igo and Serenity Jackson), medal- ing in the 100M (6th, 12.34) and also setting a PR in the 400M (2nd, 57.58).

So what’s next for the senior after missing her junior season? The pursuit of new personal bests, school records and the chance to hoist the school’s first girls’ team state championship.

Experience isn’t a question mark for the sprinting phenom.

Abdul-Hameed recalled running against former Wichita Southeast great Christal Mosley as a freshman, seeing one of the state’s best to ever run in the 400M (56.07 at state, PR of 54.26). It has given the Derby sprinter an appetite for success, dreaming of what it would feel like to be ahead of the pack on the final straight-away at state.

After losing last season due to COVID-19, she isn’t settling and has dreams of stepping atop the podium as one of Kansas’ best sprinters in two months.

“It would honestly mean a lot to me [to become a state champion], especially since we didn’t get last season,” she said. “I want to be able to lead the pack and prove to myself that I can do it." 

Austin Wuthrich, who will be an assistant after one year as Derby head coach, praised the senior’s “stubborn” competitive- ness. He said the senior is a weapon due to her commitment to the sport.

“It’s not as common to have kids who are out simply for track and field,” he said. “It might be for other sports, to stay in shape or compete and hang out with friends. You need some people who are bought into the process like any other sport. It keeps it serious and keeps people working hard.”

Her resumé extends far past the state meet. She broke a 13-year record in the 400M at Derby Middle School.Three years later, she came within .28 seconds of Alexis Bowens’ performance (57.30) in the race in 2012.

Abdul-Hameed said she met Bowens as a junior at a Lady Panther basketball alumni game. The two chatted and connected over the record and the potential she had over the final two years of her Derby career.

“That really made me want it,” she said. “… my competitiveness definitely kicked in.”

She doesn’t only want to break Bowens’ record. She wants to shatter it.

Abdul-Hameed said she and new head coach Cedric Shell have discussed breaking 56 seconds in the quarter-mile. If the senior accomplished that feat, she’d become one of 23 runners to do it in the state of Kansas (according to Carol Swenson’s all-time records published via Sports in Kansas in May 2019).

The Derby senior said the two still struck a friendship, sharing that Bowens wants to be one of her biggest cheerleaders.

“She is really nice,” Abdul-Hameed said. “… She said she’d come to the meets, watch me and push me.”

There are elements of untapped potential in Abdul-Hameed’s career. She ran track and played soccer for two years before choosing to just run last spring. The last 12 months have brought a more intense schedule, under- standing she has one more season in a Derby uniform.

“I needed to amp up on my approach just for the mere fact that I wasn’t able to do it every day during my freshman and sophomore year,” Abdul-Hameed said. “Last year I could do it every day and then it was cut short. I needed to realize I was doing what I could do to do my very best in track.”

The sprinter said she tried to train three times a week after COVID-19 hit, but ran into obstacles as the pandemic gained steam. Now into her senior season, Wuthrich said they foresee Abdul-Hameed participating in four events to maximize scoring. However, they’re also trying to find a balance to maximize her potential.

“We’ve been talking about switching between the 200M and the 4x400M relay,” she said. “I want to be able to switch [to keep] my legs fresh.”

It’s not only individual state championships that occupy her mind.

With her ability to score in as many as three individual events, Igo in the hurdles and a deep distance roster, the girls team has visions of hoisting a team trophy at season’s end.

Abdul-Hameed said her first goal is being able to win a regional championship. She also wants to take Derby’s team to a place it has never gone before and win a team state title.

“I want that title,” she said. “We have a lot of opportunities to score points, especially in track … the hype of winning a team title in a school like Derby would be amazing.”

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