WATERLOO — Bring it home.
Those are the words that resonate through Alanna Muhammad’s mind when asked about her role as an anchor on Waterloo East’s relays. The junior sprinter left a lasting memory at the 2016 state meet when she prevailed in a photo finish to give East’s 4x100 team that also included underclassmen Jasmine Dunn, Kerris Roberts and Shamya Jenkins a 4A title over two-time defending Drake Relays and returning state champion Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
Muhammad won’t forget the ensuing celebrations — from East’s supporters in the crowd to the quick reunion with her jubilant relay teammates on the track.
“It was a super big adrenaline rush,” Muhammad said. “It gave me a lot of confidence, especially for summer track.”
The East sprinter took advantage of the opportunity to compete in junior national events this past summer with the Waterloo-based Impactt track program and has gotten off to a strong start this spring. Muhammad turned in 55- and 60-meter wins at the Wartburg and Mississippi Valley Conference indoor meets, respectively, and also won the 200 at the MVC indoor. She finished sixth against a field of the state’s best in the Dickinson Relays 200 and third in the Dickinson 4x200.
Outdoors, Muhammad owns a 200-meter win at Waverly and placed second to Roberts in the 100 at a recent meet in Cedar Rapids. The Trojans’ quartet of Muhammad, Roberts, Jenkins and Amanee Clark clocked this season’s fastest 4x100 time in the state with a 49.25 at last week’s Tri-State Invite in Dubuque.
“I think this is a better start than we had last year,” Muhammad said. “I feel like I’ve gotten back to my freshman speed.”
Muhammad is a high-level gymnast who says she was first convinced by her father, Corey Muhammad, to give track a try at Carver Middle School. East track coach Richard Carter worked on the football coaching staff with Corey Muhammad, and knew Alanna would eventually provide a boost to his track program.
“I knew she had a lot of talent,” Carter said. “She’s a gifted athlete. She’s a full-time gymnast and she works really hard and is super strong.”
As a freshman and sophomore, Muhammad went from track to gymnastics practice, and the physical demands of both sports eventually took a toll on her body. She clocked one of the state’s fastest 100 times early her freshman season, but battled through injuries before placing eighth in the 200 and running that championship 4x100 anchor leg at state her sophomore year. While she credits the sport as a factor that has helped her find success on the track, Muhammad has taken a break from gymnastics this spring and feels she’s regained some speed now that she’s back to full health.
Carter has faith in his battle-tested junior’s ability to close out relays.
“She’s a battler, she’ll fight until the end,” Carter said. “Whatever position we are in, she’s going to put us in a better position to hold off whoever is coming in. That competitive nature that she got from gymnastics and being involved in that her whole life has helped her. She’s been to state and Drake two years in a row and she’s stepping up as a leader.”
Muhammad also credits the support of her parents as part of her track success with them promoting a healthy diet and work ethic. She considers this East team a fun group to work alongside, and doesn’t have to look far to find a challenge.
Roberts burst onto the scene and won the Drake Relays 100 and state 200 as a freshman.
“We race on every workout that we have to do,” Muhammad said. “We’re always up against each other in practice, but in a friendly way. We’re pushing each other to go faster.”
Added Carter, “They just drive each other and push each other. A lot of our girls try to step up and work hard and hold each other accountable.”
Following a breakthrough eighth-place team finish at last year’s state meet, East will once again turn to the sprints as a source of points. The Trojans appear poised to move up this spring.
“We don’t have a very big team,” Muhammad said. “But we make a lot of noise.”