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GWINNETT GRADS: Berkmar's Halim shines at Virginia Tech

Sitting in a sixth-grade technology class, Hasheem Halim first discovered his future career path.

He was constructing a push cart and was intrigued by its design, which led to more investigation into possible careers. His teacher discussed architecture as a possibility, so Halim began dreaming of designs for venues like football stadiums.

"That was when I first heard about architecture and I've just kind of stuck with it," said the Berkmar grad, a senior on Virginia Tech's track and field team.

Halim even got a warning about his career choice when he arrived in Blacksburg as a freshman -- Virginia Tech's renowned architecture program is challenging, and time-consuming. Advisors told him the course work would limit his training time for athletics.

But it didn't change his mind.

"(Architecture) was the reason I went to Virginia Tech," said Halim, who has a 3.4 GPA. "They warned me when I first came here that I wouldn't get much time for training. But it's actually helped me develop my organizational skills."

Halim spends much of his time on architecture work for school, then draws and designs even more in his spare time. Earlier this week he got just two hours of sleep one night because he worked late on a design project.

The academic load has been tough, but it hasn't kept Halim, a former Georgia high school state champion who was the Daily Post's field performer of the year in 2008, from an excellent college athletic career.

He has earned All-American honors three times in his jumping career, most recently with a third-place finish at this year's NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. He broke his own school record at the meet with a leap of 53 feet, 6 inches.

That effort was on the heels of finishing second at the ACC Indoors, where he earned his fourth straight All-ACC Indoors award for the triple jump.

"The season had a theme, that all my best jumps were fouls going into nationals," Halim said. "Nationals was about finally getting the jump in that I knew I had in me."

Halim has racked up enough honors that he's at least in the same class as his two older brothers. He first discovered track as a middle-schooler when his older brother Kamau was setting school records at Buffalo. Then his brother Muhammad, who went to Cornell, followed by winning the NCAA triple jump title. Muhammad also qualified for the 2012 Olympics for the U.S. Virgin Islands, where all three brothers were born.

Halim was just 2 when his family moved to western New York, where he lived for 12 years before moving to Lilburn. He was a track and field star at Berkmar despite his limited training -- his only experience was the outdoor high school season with the Patriots.

"That surprised everybody when I came to college," Halim said. "Everybody here was talking about their (year-round) track clubs and they were surprised I wasn't with a track club. I only got one outdoor season (a year) to train. That was it."

At the college level, his training is somewhat abbreviated, too, thanks to his major. But he's accomplished plenty, with more goals on the horizon for his final college season in outdoors.

He hopes to top 55 feet and break the school record in the outdoor triple jump this spring. He also has the goal of an NCAA title to match his older brother's feat.

Halim may even give track and field a shot after college.

"If the opportunity presents itself, I'd do (track and field) after college, maybe for a year," said Halim, who will compete next weekend at Georgia Tech. "Just for the experience and getting to travel the world and compete. It would be nice to see how good I could be if I trained full-time and focused purely on track and field."

SWIMMING

Swan, Janzen part of national records

Florida Southern teammates Stephen Swan (Brookwood) and Bruce Janzen (Collins Hill) played roles in NCAA Division II National Championships records as their team placed third overall, its best-ever showing at nationals, last weekend.

Swan and Janzen were on the 400-yard medley (3 minutes, 12.43 seconds) and 800 freestyle relay (6:27.73) teams that set national records. Swan and his brother Robbie also were on a 400 free relay that placed third. Stephen Swan also was seventh in the 200 free (1:37.66).

For the Florida Southern women's team, Mill Creek grad Stephanie Doran was sixth in the 200 backstroke (2:01.42) and was on a third-place 400 medley relay.

Weir, locals shine at JUCO Nationals

Gwinnett products made a big splash at last weekend's National Junior College Athletic Association Championships, with Providence Christian's Caleb Weir and Brookwood's Kelly Faulkner helping their Indian River State College teams to national titles.

It was the 38th straight national title for the Indian River men and the 31st straight for the Indian River women.

Weir was NJCAA runner-up in the 50 free (19.84) and the 100 free (44.05), and took third in the 200 free (1:40.87).

Weir also swam on four relays that set national meet records --800 free (6:34.63), 200 free (1:17.70), 200 medley (1:26.65) and 400 medley (2:54.69).

Faulkner was fourth in the 1,650 free (17:45.75), seventh in the 200 free (1:57.51) and fifth in the 500 free (5:10.98).

Three other Gwinnett grads -- Mill Creek grads/sisters Sammy and Sara Akoubian and North Gwinnett's Anna Barnes -- also had strong meets for Daytona State College, which finished runner-up in the team standings.

Sammy Akoubian was third in the 200 breaststroke (2:26.27), third in the 400 IM (4:38.03) and eighth in the 100 breast (1:08.42). She also was on a national champion 800 free relay team (7:30.23).

Sara Akoubian was eighth in the 500 free (5:18.89), sixth in the 400 IM (4:49.28) and sixth in the 1,650 free (18:10.19).

Barnes was fourth in the 400 IM (4:45.26), seventh in the 500 free (5:13.17) and seventh in the 1,650 free (18:15.19).

SOFTBALL

Hadley gets Gulf South conference honor

Valdosta State softball player Alanna Hadley was named the Gulf South Conference pitcher of the week on Tuesday.

The Dacula grad won three games last week and improved her season record to 9-1. She threw a one-hitter with nine strikeouts vs. Miles, then also picked up wins vs. West Alabama and West Florida.

Hadley has a season ERA of 0.78 and has limited her opponents to a .180 batting average. Those two numbers, and her nine victories, are both first in the conference.

GYMNASTICS

Shealy selected to academic team

Providence Christian grad Michelle Shealy, a sophomore gymnast at Iowa State, was named this week to the Academic All-Big 12 Team. She was named to the first team, which requires a 3.2 GPA or higher.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.