Athlete Spotlight - Ariah Graham
Ariah taking individual gold over 400m at the NBIN meet. (Photo by Don Rich)
Raleigh Wakefield senior Ariah Graham has athleticism in her genes. Her mother, Ann, was an All-American track athlete at St. Augustine's College in the 80's. Her Brother, T.J., enjoyed a solid football career as a wide receiver at NC State and is expected to be a high pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Trevor, her father, was a 1988 Olympic silver medalist for Jamaica in the 4x400 relay. Mr. Graham also worked with several world-class sprinters during the late 90's and early 2000's, including Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin, Tim Montgomery and Shawn Crawford. Our very own David Pickett caught up with the sprint diva from North Carolina to discuss her final high school season.
MileSplit: Ariah, Congratulations on winning three events at the indoor national meet. That's quite an impressive showing! How do you feel about your performances?
Ariah Graham: I feel very happy about my performance at nationals. Being a national champion is something that I have dreamed about over and over. It was a good goal I have been working on since the beginning of the season.
MileSplit: You placed fifth in the 400-meter dash at the prestigious Brooks PR indoor Invitational. What was it like for you competing against the nation's best?
Ariah Graham: The Brooks PR Invitational was a great experience. The 400 I ran there was my first one of my indoor season. I knew that the athletes competing there were the best and to be apart of that group was an honor. I knew that win or lose I was going to run a personal best. My coaches told me to go have fun and just run. That experience made me relaxed and prepared for nationals. When all the nation's best are friends, as competitive as we are we just run and have fun.
MileSplit: This past indoor season you became North Carolina's all-time performer in three events, including the 300-, 400- and 500-meter dashes. What does it mean to you to be at the top in each event?
Ariah Graham: To be at the top in my state is a big deal to me. North Carolina has tough competition and is filled with amazing athletes. I always tell myself that if I am not the best in my state how can I achieve my goal as being the best in the nation. Those are the words that keep me working hard and motivated.
MileSplit: Talk about your four years at Wakefield. What will you remember most about being a Wolverine?
Ariah Graham: My four years at Wakefield have taught me that you can take something so small and turn it into something so big. We were the underdogs and not even looked at as a team that could even win our conference meet. As a team we worked hard to turn things around. We are now four time state champions and 2011 national new balance champions as a team. We work very hard and with that hard work we slowly came to be ranked number one nationally in many events, and we are the best girl’s team in the nation. I love my teammates and I will always remember what each one of them taught me. As a wolverine I will always remember what it means to be a wolverine. To stay focused on and off the track and that succeeding on your own can be and amazing feeling, but it’s when you have a team so talented and strong you can achieve goals beyond your wildest dreams.
MileSplit: Ann Graham is your coach, which also happens to be your mom. What has it been like having her as a coach?
Ariah Graham: My mom is the best mom in the world. She pushes me to be the best person I can be and she never sets me up to fail. She has been my coach since I was a little girl and taught me all I know about hard work. She never gives up on me and will be there until I get it right. As I got older my dad (Trevor Graham) and mom (Ann Graham) now became my coaches. Most would think that they are very strict with my training, but they are far from it. They teach me all they can and when it comes time to run they just let me go.
MileSplit: Where did you acquire your speed from?
Ariah Graham: Both of my parents were outstanding athletes. My mom (Ann Graham) and dad (Trevor Graham) both ran track in high school, college and professionally. They won many titles between the two. My mom was a hurdler, sprinter and jumper and my dad ran the 400m and 800m. My dad was a silver medalist in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. My mom is the head coach of my high school track team and my dad is a professional track coach. My parents have been my coaches my whole life and they taught me all I that I know. When I was a baby I watched the fastest men and woman in the world train before my eyes. I even remember as a child, going up to Marion Jones one day in practice and telling her that one day I was going to beat her. My parents grew me up to be strong and independent. They taught me that anything is possible if I work hard at it. I guess you can say it's in my genes.
MileSplit: Last month you decided to take your talents to the Wolfpack? Why did you choose NC State?
Ariah Graham: I grew up on NC State track and have been there everyday even before I could walk in the arms of my dad (Trevor Graham). I watched the best in the world train on that track, its like home to me, I guess you can say being apart of the wolfpack is in my blood. They have outstanding academics and they want to see me succeed academically as well as athletically. I have big dreams on and off the track. Most athletes chose the colleges within their state and most North Carolina athletes venture out to the powerhouse schools outside of our state. I chose North Carolina State because I want to be the person to make a difference. I have always been the type of person that when everyone is going right I will chose to go left and I was recruited by most of the top track and field programs in the country. I chose North Carolina State because I want to make a difference and show most of our top athletes in the state of North Carolina that they can stay close to home and still achieve their goals.
MileSplit: What are your goals heading into Outdoor?
Ariah Graham: My goal for the outdoor season is to just compete the best that I can. I want to have fun with my team and defend our state and national tittles. I set the bar pretty high for myself this indoor season and I am hoping I can do the same outdoor.
MileSplit: If you could choose how would you end your high school career?
Ariah Graham: I would end my high school career sitting with my teammates at nationals after the 4x400. Laughing and joking while I look back on all he crazy, happy, and sad times we have had. I would look up in the stands as everyone leaves and think about all I have achieved. I will remember their smiling faces and the hard work days at practice, dying on the ground tired from a workout. I would hope that we would have a bunch of gold medals, t-shirts and flowers from where we have made history. Track is my life, but my team is my family and ending it happily with them is how I would like to end it.