September 1, 2010

A CAREER OF CHANGE FOR WALID BERKHEDLE

From Canada to Georgia to Virginia, Walid Berkhedle's cross country career has called many places home. However, he knows this year in the black and gold is his last stop in his running career.

Berkhedle is a native of Toronto, a sports town of more than just hockey. His high school, Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute, is an international track and field powerhouse in Canada. Graduates of Birchmount have gone on to collegiate track and field careers at Boston College, TCU, Tulsa and USC. His career was taking a similar projection.

"My high school career was real good up to my last year when I broke my leg," Berkhedle said.

This forced him to look to smaller schools to continue his running career, which led him to Morrow, Georgia and Clayton State University. CSU was the first collegiate stop for Walid, where as a freshman he was the Peach Belt Conference cross country Runner of the Year. Two years of success propelled him towards a move to a Division I school.

VCU entered the picture through a relationship with a former Ram. One of Berkhedle's teammates at Clayton State was a cousin of then current VCU cross country runner Stephen Mustisya. Through Mutisya, Berkhedle saw Richmond as the next stop of his cross country journey.

Adjusting to a new NCAA division, a new state and a new team was a bit of a change for Walid.

"At first it was a quiet vibe, but as the weeks went by, there was good chemistry between everyone. We would compete and talk trash to one another, but it was all respectable."

After beginning to gel with the rest of the team, Berkhedle began getting it done out on course and on the track.

"For Cross Country and Track and Field I had my best year with new personal bests," Berkhedle said.

But an Achilles injury and a stress fracture in his left leg would damper an otherwise outstanding junior season. Yet he has two words for his senior year.

"Stay hungry."

Berkhedle has his goals laid out for the final year of his career, and they show just how hungry he is.

"For cross country the ultimate goal is to win conference, as a team and as an individual," he said. "For track and field I would like to score 10 to 12 points at the conference meet, and win conference as a team."

Walid Berkhedle's hunger will look to help the Rams' track and cross country teams get ready to feed a serious competitive appetite.

(written by Matt Ensor, graduate assistant from VCU's Center for Sport Leadership)

 
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