Of the many talented athletes at UTM, Haseeb Malik, the captain of this year’s cross-country team, won Male Rookie of the Year Award for being an outstanding cross-country runner for the UTM Eagles. Although it was his first year at UTM, Malik succeeded in getting all the way to nationals, but without the rest of the team.

The Medium sat down with Malik to discuss his achievements, those who have inspired him, and what he’s excited for moving forward.

While he managed to kick off a successful athletic career in cross-country, Malik wasn’t always involved in the sport.

“In high school, I used to play a lot of basketball—never really did cross-country ‘till grade 12,” he said. “I didn’t honestly know that I wanted to become a runner; I just did the beep test one day and set the school record.” This prompted him to participate in track and field in grade 11, which he admitted was successful. “So, I thought I might as well do cross-country in grade 12.”

Though, Malik didn’t get involved with cross-country simply through his own merit. His admitted source of inspiration is one of his high school teachers, Mr. Pool. “He used to do these things called ‘Ironmans’, and Ironmans are intense, like a triathlon but with much longer distances,” Malik said. “He [kind of] motivated me a lot and really pushed me.” This led Malik to push himself even further when he found the opportunity to do so on UTM’s cross-country team.

Although he hasn’t done an Ironman yet, Malik participated and succeeded in his first duathlon last summer in Niagara Falls, which consisted of 60 other competitors. “I finished fifth overall, and I was first in my age group,” he said. “I hope to do more duathlons in the future. Definitely multi-sport events, not just running.”

When it comes to cross-country at UTM, Malik expressed his excitement in regards to the team this year and being able to run alongside some of the members from last year’s team. “Most of the runners that were on the team were first-years, so I guess we were [facing] the same struggles with time management; but we also helped each other out,” he said. “We were a great team last year, but this year I think we’ve been working really hard.”

Malik also discussed the success of the team’s participation at the Fanshawe Cross-Country Rotational last Saturday at the conservation area in London. “I came in sixth overall, as a team we came in fourth.” He went on to explain that this was better than last year’s ranking, where the team came in fifth. “You can see that improvement, and it’s still so early in the year, so there’s still so much room for improvement.”

As for his plans for the year, the computer science student said he hopes to take the whole team to nationals. “It’s fun going individually, but you don’t have that team feeling [that you have] when you go together as a team, that long bus ride going to wherever we’re going.”