Oklahoma Student-Athlete Spotlight: Mookie Salaam
Courtesy: Big12Sports.com
          Release: 03/16/2011
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By Clark Wilson
Big 12 Campus Correspondent

Family plays a major role for many athletes and where they decide to attend college. The location of a school can sometimes hurt or help a school when a recruit is winding down their recruiting process. 

For junior sprinter Mookie Salaam this rings true as he decided to stay close to home and attend the University of Oklahoma. 

The Edmond, Okla.-product had a decision to make when coming out of Edmond North High School -- either run track at OU or go play college football for large programs such as Penn State, Nebraska and Iowa. But, ultimately, Salaam decided to stay close to home, and family was the deciding factor.

"I chose OU because coming out of high school my brothers were taken into the Boy's Ranch so I didn't really want to go out of state," said Salaam.  "So, if they needed my help or anything, I'd be able to get to them because I'm only 30 minutes away. So that's one of the big reasons why I chose OU."

As a football player and track athlete, Salaam's speed has always been an asset. Although it's the sport he lives and breathes today, running track isn't something he has done his whole life.

"I started playing football as a running track in the sixth grade in California, but we moved a lot so I couldn't really continue it until my junior year in high school," said Salaam.

Traveling has always been apart of Salaam's life, and fortunately for him, moving down to Oklahoma is when he made track one of his full-time sports. But at the time, his commitment to track was used to prepare for another sport.

"I actually did track to stay in shape for football", he said. "When I lived in Las Vegas during my junior year I started to run track, but coaches up there didn't really take it as serious as they do down here in the south, so when I moved down here everybody was all about it."

Considering his list of offers for football, it's admirable to see him make the run he has for the Sooners' track program.

Throughout his career at OU, Salaam has been an All-Big 12 indoor and outdoor honoree. He holds two Oklahoma program records, including the indoor 60-meter dash where he clocked in at a time of 6.54. His second record is a 20.76 mark in the indoor 200-meter dash.

But even with all of his accomplishments and records, he still has a humble attitude and seeks improvement everyday. 

"I try not to think about it too much because you still want to finish the season strong," said the junior. "Just because you set a record doesn't mean the season's over. You don't think about it too much because you want to work hard at it and finish the season strong because it's not how you start, it's how you finish."

Finishing the season strong is a goal for Salaam. In his mind it's motivation and a strong reminder for how people will remember him when he leaves OU.

"If you go out with a bang everybody will remember you as 'He was the guy that every time he stepped on the track he came to compete, he wasn't satisfied with the race he did last weekend when he broke the record.'", said Salaam. "I want to improve and go break previous records that I set the weekend before."

With the type of speed that Salaam possesses, there's no doubt that breaking more records and competing in the Olympics could be in his near future. Both accomplishments are something that he would one day like to achieve.

"I would love to break the outdoor records, I'd love to get those before I graduate," said Salaam. "One of my other goals is to be in the Olympics more than once."

Hopefully for Sooner fans, those opportunities will turn into realities as championships reside in Norman. It's not only something that Salaam wants to be apart of but also to start a tradition at Oklahoma.

"I just want to be able to continue being successful and help bring in other sprinters from other areas," said an inspired Salaam. "I'm trying to build a program here so that way when I do leave and look back at it I can say that I helped start that program."

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