Cross-country freshman qualifies for state



Gabrielle Shirley (11), Sukaina Alhaidari (9), Russell Wolfe (12), Justice Clarke (12) and Jarryn Lowe (11) flaunt a “W” after racing in the TSSAA Region 8 AAA competition on Oct. 27, 2022. These five Spartans qualified for the state championship.

Sukaina Alhaidari (9) (far right) poses with fellow members of the White Station Cross Country Team. The team raced across Shelby Farms Park against other schools around Memphis.

Sukaina Alhaidari (9) never expected to start running cross-country, but she was remarkably surprised when she qualified for state during her first year. While it was frightening and it created a lot of pressure for Alhaidari, she pushed through with practice.

Alhaidari has never officially participated in a sport but was encouraged to join after practicing with her older siblings.

“I was running right behind [my siblings at] practice,” Alhaidari said. “The coach saw me and they wanted me to join, and they told my dad and he really wanted me to do it [too]. But I still had fun in the end.”

Practice for cross-country is extensive, with there being six practices a week, some starting early in the mornings. Although training is physically demanding and time intensive, runners persist through dedication and discipline. 

“I think [all the practice] does help, I’ll be honest,” Alhaidari said. 

It only takes one race to qualify for state, but that does not mean it is easy. Runners must trudge through mud and rough terrain as they endure physical and mental challenges. As Alhaidari raced in the regional meet, she competed against other experienced Spartans.

“I thought [Gabrielle Shirley] would get in because usually, she’s like faster than me, and I was like, expecting that, you know?” Alhaidari said. “And then I somehow got in, so that’s kind of scary.”

Finally, at the Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville, TN, on Nov. 4, 2022, Alhaidari attended the state competition. There were 300 people competing in total, and Alhaidari finished with 20 people behind her. Although Alhaidari experienced a great accomplishment, she believes there were some factors that held her back from her full potential. 

“I was sick before state actually, I couldn’t come to school, and then when I came back, I actually had to go to state, and it wasn’t good,” Alhaidari said. “So I didn’t expect that much because I [had] just come back.”

Alhaidari plans to participate and improve in cross country throughout the rest of her high school career. With the many burdens cross-country carries, the endurance and strength required to succeed takes years to acquire. 

“I got like years ahead, and I could improve [my running,]” Alhaidari said.

Although Alhaidari has already attained major success, she intends to improve her skill and performance. She hopes to work with a trainer or coach to help her form.

“My running form [is] pretty, pretty bad,” Alhaidari said. “I just really wish I could have somebody that will tell me what I’m doing wrong, so I can get better at it.”

While Alhaidari has her own way of improving her running skill, she encourages students to join the cross-country team.

“Don’t be surprised at the beginning,” Alhaidari said. “There’s going to be this one girl that runs [24 minutes] at her first race. Don’t push yourself too much. And don’t quit at the beginning. You’re going to get better. That’s the best part.”