SCOREBOARD McNair’s Nasser emerges as top harrier

Steps in as leader of the Cougars

COUGAR ON THE PROWL – McNair Academic senior Fahd Nasser, shown here finishing second at the Manhattan Invitational last Saturday at Van Cortlandt Park, is putting up some of the best times ever recorded by any Hudson County cross country performer in history.
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COUGAR ON THE PROWL – McNair Academic senior Fahd Nasser, shown here finishing second at the Manhattan Invitational last Saturday at Van Cortlandt Park, is putting up some of the best times ever recorded by any Hudson County cross country performer in history.

A year ago, the McNair Academic High School cross country team had a senior leader/do everything in senior Haig Rickerby.
When Rickerby graduated and took a scholarship to Boston University in the process, it left the leadership duties to Fahd Nasser.
“I looked up to him,” Nasser said of Rickerby. “He was a great athlete and left a great legacy. I knew I had to step up and become more focused. I had to try to do whatever he did last year.”
It was a role that McNair’s veteran head coach Matt Hogan was sure Nasser could handle.
“I thought Fahd finished last year a little under the radar,” Hogan said. “I thought he was ready to take the next step. He’s done a nice job of being true team leader on the track and off.”
Hogan said that he told Nasser that he should set his goals high for his senior year.
“I’ve been trying to tell him that he has to be confident,” Hogan said. “I told him that he had to believe he belonged. I said, ‘You’re good and you can be better.’”
Nasser put a lot of time in during the offseason, especially the summer, when he attended a camp at Brookwoods Camp in Glens Spy, N.Y. with the famed cross country team from Christian Brothers Academy, headed by legendary coach Tom Heath.
“I learned a lot from that camp,” Nasser said. “I was able to integrate that with my training. I was able to learn a lot about the sport from Coach Heath. It really opened my eyes and showed me the path I needed to take. Coach Heath told me a lot about what I should do. When I came back home, I was able to take all of that with me.”
Nasser also learned a little about cross training _ hiking and running.
“I also was able to run consistently every day,” Nasser said. “It was really my most successful summer. I felt really good.”
Hogan saw the change.
“He logged the miles,” Hogan said. “He already had the speed. He has been healthy and consistent and runs all the time. Those are the keys to success and he has them all.”
Nasser started the season with a sizzling time of 15:36 at Ocean County Park, a race where Nasser finished second overall.
“That was a sign for me,” Nasser said.
Nasser then ran a 16:15 at the tough famed Bowl at Holmdel Park and won his division of the Shore Coaches Invitational.
It was the second fastest time ever recorded by a Hudson County runner at Holmdel. Only Roger Munoz of Kearny (16:07) ran the famed Holmdel course faster than Nasser.
“That gave me enough confidence to know that I can do that all the time,” Nasser said.
“He’s been racing well,” Hogan said. “His training has been uninterrupted at all. His times have been coming down.”
Last Saturday, Nasser ran at the Manhattan Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and finished second in the Varsity E race in 12:49.3 (a 2.5 mile course instead of the conventional 3.1 mile course).
“The time he ran at Manhattan puts him in the class of people like Sal Vega, Estavio Gonzalez and Joe Webber,” Hogan said.
All three of the runners that Hogan mentioned went on to win the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Vega, the former mayor of West New York, and Gonzalez did it while running for Memorial, Webber for Kearny.
“Those are some historic names right there,” Hogan said. “He can hang with the best.”
Nasser is now preparing for the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships next Saturday (Oct. 28) at Bayonne County Park. He doesn’t want just to win the race, although there’s no guarantee there with runners like Kevin Keegan of St. Peter’s Prep and Benedictus Bigo of Snyder looming.
“I really want to go after the course record,” Nasser said. “I think I can do it. Entering the race, I think I can be able to push the pace a little and orchestrate what’s going on.”
From there, Nasser will go on to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I sectionals at Greystone Park, followed by the overall Group I state championships at Holmdel Park.
“I think he should be the favorite to win the sectional and the Groups,” Hogan said.
It’s all coming from a kid who never even dreamed of being a runner.
When Nasser first arrived at McNair Academic a little more than three years ago, he aspired to be a basketball player.
“I didn’t even know what track was,” Nasser said. “I was hoping to be a basketball player.”
Nasser played basketball as a freshman and was encouraged by McNair Academic head boys’ basketball coach Dave Masciale to join the Cougars’ outdoor track team in the spring.
“Coach Masciale told me that it would be a good idea to stay in shape and get stronger,” Nasser said. “I didn’t even consider track if it wasn’t for him. He got me to train regularly and then I saw the light. I decided to stick with it.”
Now, it’s a career that may go down as legendary _ and one of the best ever in Hudson County history.
Although there haven’t been a host of colleges recruiting Nasser, he has received feelers from Rider, Rutgers and Cornell. Nasser has a fine average of 94.62 and received a score of 1190 in the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Nasser just recently took the test again, but has not received that score.
“I hope I did better to boost my scores,” Nasser said.
Just like he was able to boost his times.
“It’s been pretty awesome,” Nasser said. “I’m really happy with the way the season has gone.”
And there’s no question that Nasser is now the leader of the Cougars.
“I acknowledge the fact,” Nasser said. “I hope I can serve as an inspiration to the younger kids in the future.”
If Nasser continues to run like he has been doing, his legacy will be more than enough inspiration for now and for many years to come.

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.