ATHLETE OF THE WEEK

McNair’s Abushanab: The reluctant running warrior

McNair Academic senior distance runner Adam Abushanab
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McNair Academic senior distance runner Adam Abushanab

When Adam Abushanab was a freshman at McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, he was told by his strict parents that he had to join an extra-curricular activity.

“They thought I wasn’t involved enough,” Abushanab said of his parents, who have a unique ethnic background of Ethiopian (mother) and Sudanese (father). “They wanted me to do something else, other than going to school and coming straight home. They thought I needed some sort of exercise.”

So after his freshman year at McNair was completed, Abushanab reluctantly chose to try out for the famed track program at the school.

“I joined during my sophomore year,” Abushanab said. “I had a lot of friends on the team already, but I didn’t like it. At first, I wasn’t any good at it. But after a while, I started to love it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I wasn’t good, but my coach [Matt Hogan] saw potential in me. He had faith in me, so I kept trying.”

Hogan definitely saw something in his late bloomer.

“He did have potential,” Hogan said. “He had that runner look. He’s tall and long and has a long stride. He didn’t have any running background and he was starting late. But he had a good work ethic.”

Abushanab’s work ethic quickly became an obsession.

Every single morning without fail, Abushanab got up at 5 a.m. and ran six miles. No matter what the day, what the weather was, Abushanab woke up before the crack of dawn and ran through the streets of Jersey City.

“I was getting it out of the way,” said Abushanab, who also has a part-time job at a popular Jersey City restaurant called The Cottage near Journal Square among his daily regimen. “It’s a lot better for me. I work better that way. In the summertime, I was beating the hot weather. Knowing I had to run early made me go to bed earlier. I had a better sleep schedule.”

Hogan was impressed with Abushanab’s dedication.

“He shows up every day,” Hogan said. “He’s a quiet kid who was basically a middle of the packer. But he said, ‘I’m going to lead the team as a senior.’ I believed him. He got up early and did his runs. That’s tough. He had to go to school and work. It’s not easy. I know when that alarm goes off, I don’t want to get up. But Adam was consistent. He did his runs every day. And he made the steady climb.”

Abushanab was determined to make his promise to his coach become a reality. He had a solid cross country season last fall, finishing second overall in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championships, finishing the course in Clark in 17:24, leading the Cougars to their fifth ever team title. He also finished eighth in the Jersey City championships, completing the course in Lincoln Park in 16:50, the top finisher other than the mighty St. Peter’s Prep contingent.

Abushanab was also 10th at the Hudson County Track Coaches Association’s meet at Bayonne County Park.

Abushanab continued his fine running during the abbreviated indoor season, by finishing third in the 1,600-meter run in 4:52.19 and third in the 3,200-meter run in 10:26 in the HCTCA’s All-Star meet that was held outdoors at Lincoln Park last week. A week prior, Abushanab won both races in a preliminary meet at Kearny High School. The meets were held outdoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And for his efforts, Abushanab has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Abushanab is pleased with his progress.

“I’m glad I’m now running with the big dogs,” Abushanab said. “I’ve improved by almost a minute. I am surprised, for sure.”

Now Abushanab is preparing for the outdoor season that will begin in earnest in a couple of weeks.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Abushanab said. “I didn’t run as well as I wanted to this year. I have very high hopes for the outdoor season. But I’m definitely happy with my improvement. I think it helps that I don’t let a bad race get to me anymore.”

Hogan likes the way Abushanab is running these days.

“He runs like an old school runner,” Hogan said. “He’s pretty strong and runs a solid second leg of races. If he’s hanging around and runs a good second split, he’s in business. I think he has good endurance. He does all the things you need to do to succeed. He always leads the team in practice. The old adage applies, ‘Practice well, race well.’ He’s our No. 1 man, our top runner now.”

Abushanab hasn’t made a decision about college yet, but he’s leaning towards Rutgers-Newark, where he will continue his track and field career. If he chooses R-N, he’ll get the chance to run for storied coach Juan Edney.

“I’m planning on staying in state,” said Abushanab, meaning he’s not leaving the Garden State anytime soon.

Abushanab plans on majoring in accounting and finance in college.

“I think he’ll fit in nicely wherever he goes,” Hogan said. “He might make a better runner on the college level. He likes to get out and go. I trust his style and his training. I don’t want to get him out of his comfort zone. He’s getting in good running shape now. I think we’ll see some marked improvements this season once we get the nice weather.”

Abushanab plans on performing well during the upcoming outdoor track season.

“My goal is to get to the [NJSIAA] Meet of Champions,” Abushanab said. “I don’t want to get caught up in it. If I continue to run better times, I should be able to do it.”

So the kid who didn’t really want to become a runner at all is now competing with, as Adam Abushanab says, with the big dogs.

“If you would have told me sophomore year that I could do all of what I’ve accomplished, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Abushanab said. “I’m pretty surprised, but I’m also happy and blessed.” – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com