Moghaddami inspires on and off the track

Oakwood High senior Maryam Moghaddami will compete in Friday's CCS Track and Field Championships in the triple jump. Photo by Robert Eliason.

When coach Karen Arnold began the inaugural season for the Oakwood High track and field team four years ago, there were only five members on the roster. However, one of those athletes, Maryam Moghaddami, really stood out from the rest. The versatile senior excels in four events: the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, long jump and triple jump. In last Saturday’s Central Coast Section Semifinals at Gilroy High, Moghaddami finished in 11th place in the triple jump, 17th in the 100 hurdles, 23rd in the 300 hurdles and 25th in the long jump. 

Moghaddami’s mark of 34 feet, 7 inches in the triple jump—a personal-record (PR)—earned her a qualifying spot in Friday’s CCS Finals. Moghaddami’s final season at Oakwood has been nothing short of outstanding, as she owns school records and has lifetime best marks of 16.27 seconds in the 100 hurdles, 49.42 seconds in the 300 hurdles (accomplished last year), 15-5 in the long jump (also accomplished during her junior season) and the aforementioned PR in the triple jump. 

What’s truly impressive is Moghaddami has achieved all of her success even though Oakwood doesn’t even have a track and field facility. She doesn’t get to just walk out of a locker room and onto a track, like athletes at bigger schools with larger programs. She has to get in a car or van and drive out to Gavilan College and train on their gravel track every Monday and Wednesday, forcing Moghaddami to adapt her training regimen.  

“Because I wasn’t able to have ready access to a track and coach all days of the week, I developed a quality over quantity mentality and focused on getting the most out of my practices when I could have them,” said Moghaddami, who will attend the University of Oregon Clarks Honor College in the fall. “My Oakwood coaches, especially coach Arnold, were very supportive and helped me build a training schedule taking into consideration the additional days of practice I needed which often happened on weekends and Tuesdays when we generally don’t have regular practices.”

Indeed, Arnold has been one of Moghaddami’s biggest fans the last four years and few have taken as much enjoyment in seeing her reach standout status. 

“I can’t say enough about Maryam, both as a person and an athlete,” Arnold said. “I think this year she has wanted to take full advantage of her final season competing as a high school athlete and for Oakwood, and I think she has allowed herself a little more freedom and lightness to enjoy what she has achieved, which has allowed her to do even better.” 

Moghaddami has done just that, earning 12 first-place finishes this season covering her four signature events. There’s something about jumping for Maryam, whether over hurdles or into the pit. But running has always been at the core. Moghaddami has also been an integral member of the school’s historic girls cross country team last year, helping guide the squad to its first-ever CCS Championships.

“This year I think what helped was coming off of a good cross country season,” she said. “The Oakwood girls team made it to CCS for the first time, so I think that success helped carry me into my track season with high expectations. Additionally, this year as the team nearly doubled in size, we were able to focus on more event-specific workouts so that was of great benefit to me as my events are all technique heavy.”

Moghaddami admitted she didn’t expect this season to go as well as it did. She, along with the team, have been pleasantly surprised to see their times dropping amid terrific results, all the more inspiring after enduring a set of injuries early on last season that took months to recover from. 

Moghaddami has become a popular figure on Oakwood’s tight-knit campus, becoming Oakwood’s de-facto running ambassador in the process. After last season, students began to hear more and more about her accomplishments on the track, inspiring many to sign up for the spring sport and leading the team to have a record turnout this season, a testament to her success and Arnold’s leadership.

“This season is the largest number of athletes we have ever had, both on the boys team and the girls team, and we have been able to have athletes competing in such a great (and wide) variety of events,” Arnold said. 

After seeing the projected growth for the team, Arnold sought to find more coaches to help her handle the load since she’s been flying solo all this time. It did not take long for Arnold to find good fits for her coaching staff.

“Apparently I asked in the right places,” Arnold said. “I found people who were ready, willing and able with their talents and their experience to come out and help coach more of the specialty events that I am unfamiliar with. And that provided so much more strength and opportunities.”

Even with the addition of three coaches, many athletes on the team feel like Moghaddami has always been like an assistant coach for them. Junior and multiple Oakwood track and field record holder A.J. Gastelum credits much of the success he enjoyed this season to the influence Moghaddami has had on him.

“I think it’s been fantastic,” he said. “Maryam has helped me get into hurdles and I have really benefited from having her, not only as a fellow athlete but also as another coach on the track. She has been really motivational, both on the track and off of it.” 

For Moghaddami, track and field has always been more than just producing results—it’s been about representing herself and her school, and building relationships that will last a lifetime. It just so happened that she won races and set records along the way. 

“I think being a part of a team that was constantly growing, expanding and reaching new heights encouraged me to work harder as I was always provided new challenges with each incoming class,” she said. 

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