Youth Spotlight: High Schooler Azwad Sourav Dreams of the Olympic Games
Three years ago, Azwad Sourav had just moved to the United States. The 11-year-old was learning English and adjusting to life at a new school, IS 223 in Brooklyn. One day, a school security guard saw Azwad running during gym class and suggested that he join the school’s NYRR youth program team.
Azwad wasn’t familiar with the sport—“There were no running opportunities in my country, and I didn’t know anything about running,” he says—but the talent was there.
Over the next two years, Azwad quickly became one of the best middle-school runners in the city, regularly winning his age group at NYRR youth events and other local races.
“I liked the way my coach, Mr. Sorocco, trained the team, and we had fun during practices,” says Azwad, who’s now in high school but comes back to practice with the team at IS 223 whenever he has time. “Also, there were so many people who came to visit us during practice. It was such a pleasure meeting Derrick Adkins one day—he won the Olympic gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles in 1996.”
These experiences propelled Azwad toward spots on his high school’s cross country and track teams. “Running different events and on different courses was really good and it helped me understand when and how to pace myself,” says Azwad, who just finished ninth grade.
Still, he admits that high school practices and meets are tough. “I started having practice four days a week instead of two, and for longer hours,” says Azwad. “When I was in middle school, my personal record was for the 5K was 18:59, but when I went to high school, I ran 17:25 after just two months. I realized that although high school practices are hard, they pay off.”
As Azwad chips away at his 5K time, he’s setting goals for 10th grade and beyond. “I want to win nationals for cross country and for indoor and outdoor track,” he says. “I am planning to work on the 3200 meters and win as many titles as possible by my senior year.”
With a support circle that includes his family, close friends, and his first coach, Mr. Sorocoo, who all come out to cheer him on at races, it’s evident that Azwad is going places. His ultimate goal: an Olympic gold medal at the 2024 games.
“I run to stay healthy, because it’s fun, and it makes you stronger physically and mentally,” he says. “And I like long distance because I can slowly take over any runner little by little while racing with them.”
Azwad is constantly looking for new teammates: “I always try to bring new people into running,” he says. “I try to inspire them to run and explain to them the benefits of running and how running has changed my life. People didn’t know anything about me until I came into the running world. Hopefully I will do something great to make them feel proud.”