(Photo provided by Evan El-Halawani)
First of all, how did you first get involved
with track and field?
When I was in third grade I would run the mile in gym class and would consistently lose to the same boy every single year. After losing for the third year consecutively, my inclination to become a runner began to grow. Starting that same year I joined Woodbury's club program as a middle distance runner and later developed into a hurdler once I realized I was proficient in my rhythm and flexibility. My dad coached me through elementary school and partway through middle school. I owe much of my successes to his input and understanding of the sport.
What are all your personal records?
110m Hurdles- 14.64 (MSHSL State Finals)
300m Hurdles- 38.07 (MSHSL State Finals)
Do you do, or have you done, any other sports?
While I've tried nearly every sport under the sun, running has always been my niche. I ran four years of cross country and developed my best friendships through the sport. The high school Cross Country coach coerced me into leaving the middle school team with the promise of making me a stronger athlete both physically and mentally. After finishing my high school cross country career I can concur that it strengthened my work ethic a great deal.
What is your favorite or most memorable competition you've ever been in?
Running is State Finals and Hamline University was easily the most memorable competition I have been a part of. After running one-one hundredth of a second under the state auto-qualifier, I was anxious and uncertain whether or not I would find any success in the 300m hurdles at the State Meet. My coach and I developed a new strategy in which we felt like I would be in serious contention for the title. Going in as a seventeenth seed (that's how I had envisioned it after being the only runner forced to qualify by time) I shifter my mindset towards running like I had nothing to lose. Ultimately, our plan had worked in my favor and I better my seed time by nearly 1.25 seconds.
So if you were a bit of an underdog at State last year, this year you are anything but. What is it like to be a favorite this time around?
My successes last year don't define the athlete I am this year, so I try to keep in mind that come the state track meet no one will care who won the year previous. When it comes down to it, everyone is on an equal playing field and everyone will be fighting to cross the finish line first. This year my focus is to continue to work hard so that I may be able to be that person that crosses first.
Other than your own teammates, who are some of your favorite athletes to compete against?
The Edina hurdle crew has an incredible group of elite hurdlers that I've really enjoyed competing against. Grant Fuller, Henry Adams, and Abdihafid Sahal have all posted incredible times in their respective hurdle events and have always helped push me to the next level. I'm looking forward to competing against them in the near future.
Who are some people that have been most helpful to you in your athletic career?
My Dad has been essential to all the success I have had in running. As a former collegiate hurdler, he has been able to offer insight and training that is typically impossible to come by for young hurdlers. From the beginning he has emphasized technique and efficiency when clearing hurdles. In addition, my mom has always supported me in my track and field endeavors. In her mind, there's no such thing as an insurmountable task. She has always helped me set the bar high and never settle for adequacy. My High School coach, Todd Endersbe, has also played a pivotal role in my development. For six years he has worked with me tirelessly to help coordinate and calculate a formula for success. He and I are very cerebral in the way we develop a race plan, every step has a purpose. The combination of these three people have molded me into the athlete I am today. All of them have overcome difficult situations and dealt with adversity but have never given up. My respect for each one of them is unexplainable, I feel so fortunate to be supported the way I am.
As a senior, how have your perspectives, strategies, or attitudes changed since you first started running, what advice would you give to younger track athletes?
My biggest piece of advice for younger athletes is that your age doesn't define your ability to perform. My freshman year people would always tell me "you'll have your turn to succeed" but I was never patient enough to accept that I needed to be older to do well. Last year, when my coach had thought I had a legitimate shot at the state title, he told me that it didn't matter that I wasn't a senior, I should go out and win it. I just want people to know that regardless of your age, you're just as entitled to success as anyone else. Don't be afraid to take risks, even if it means trying to get ahead of someone older.
What are your main goals for this upcoming track season?
My goal is to break 14.25 in the 110m hurdles and 37.5 in the 300m hurdles. As lofty as they may be, they are not unrealistic in my mind and I have been working hard to try to attain them.
Do you have any college plans?
I will be attending Lehigh University where I plan to major in biology and continue my competition in Track and Field. One of the nice surprises that came along with my commitment was the announcement that Michael Mitchell will also be attending Lehigh. I'm looking forward to being teammates with him and having him to help defend our silly Minnesotan accents.
What were some of the things that helped you choose Lehigh in spite of your Minnesota accent?
When I went and toured Lehigh I met many students that had characteristics and motives similar to mine: they were determined, academically driven, and friendly. The team was very encouraging and I had a great time getting to meet all of them. In addition, the coaching staff was very personable and seemed to always have their athletes best interests in mind. Lehigh also offered me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and create new experiences on a different side of the country.
Do you have any rituals, routines, or superstitions either on or off the track?
When I watch other athletes do rituals and routines I have always yearned for my own because it seems to add a level of legitimacy to their respective event. Sadly, I've never developed my own ritual, so until I can figure one out I'll just stick to admiring other people's routines.
When not doing anything track-related, what might we find you doing?
I am a big proponent of trying new things and making experiences for yourself. When I am not running I am likely trying new restaurants with close friends or walking around downtown trying to explore new spots. I have an extensive list of Minnesota restaurants I'd love to visit and I'm hoping I can get to a few of them before I leave for college this upcoming fall. One of my more recent hobbies is playing table tennis. This past fall I played on the Lakeville North table tennis team that took 8th place.
What are some of the restaurants you would suggest to readers?
Tilia (Linden Hills)
The Rabbit Hole (Midtown Global Market)
Red Cow (Edina)
Tell me one bizarre fact about yourself.
For whatever reason people assume that I am Hawaiian because of my last name. I've been told that "Halawani" sounds similar to "Hawaii" but I still haven't been able to figure out that connection. My last name has its roots in Egypt, where my grandpa was born. El-Halawani translates to "the candy maker" which has long been ammunition for my friends to tease me.