Schenectady High School distance standout Maazin Ahmed never got a chance to run for a New York title at the end of the spring track and field season. Sickness affected his training.
A national title will have to do.
Before a huge crowd at Eastern Michigan University's Rynearson Stadium Tuesday, Ahmed earned a national championship in the 1,500 meters.
"I had enough to kick at the end, so I kicked," Ahmed said of his victory in the age 17-18 division at the AAU Junior Olympic Games. "I feel it definitely made up for states, being one place at the qualifying. Winning a national title is a big deal."
Ahmed placed second in the 1,600 at Section II's state meet qualifier, and failed to get a fast enough at-large time, marking the final individual race of his junior season. Earlier in the spring, health issues kept him from defending the Eddy Meet one-mile title he won in 2016.
"He caught bronchitis in the middle of the track season, and even though he got it out of him, come time for the big championship meets, he lost all that training time," Schenectady High School track and field coach Joe Bennett said. "You need to be getting better and have it all culminate to the end of the season.
"He knew there was summer track coming up, and he kept training, and this happened."
It took a comeback performance for Ahmed, who clocked a 4:02.97 to win among a group of 61 runners who were divided into four heats.
"It was a classic Maazin race," Bennett said. "He didn't get off to a great start and had to work to get in the mix. He faded to tenth and with 400 meters to go worked his way back to fifth. He stalked four kids and with 200 left he kicked like a mad man.
"He knew at 400 he had to go. At 200, he knew he had to kick it."
Ahmed competed in the 16-runner fourth heat, which produced the six fastest times, and 11 of the 12 fastest times. Fellow New York runner Derrick Simmons of Laurelton placed second (4:04.39). Georgia's Oliver Huffman took third (4:05.66).
"Honestly, I was not that confident, because I didn't know anybody or their times," said Ahmed, who will turn 17 on Aug. 20. "I just wanted to run my race, and for the most part I did, although I didn't hit the time I wanted. I wanted 3:55."
Ahmed's fastest 1,500, a winning and meet-record 4:02.70, came at Niskayuna's Warriors Track and Field Classic in April.
"He was disappointed with the way the outdoor season went," Bennett said. "He wanted to go out and do something."
Bennett believes college coaches will certainly take note of Ahmed's victory.
"It was a legitimate field," Bennett said. "He's gotten some letters, but after a performance like this against a field like that, the phone will start ringing."
Ahmed won the 1,500 at a regional qualifier in New Jersey to reach the AAU Junior Olympic Games. Several other members of the two-year-old Schenectady-based Superstar Track Team coached by Eric Dyson also qualified for the event in Michigan, which began last Saturday and runs through this Saturday.
"If I didn't join Superstars, this wouldn't have happened," Ahmed said. "I would have been training for cross country."