For sisters and track stars Amirah, Dahlia and Layla Beasley, you could say success is in their genes. Aaron Beasley and Umme Salim-Beasley, the parents of the trio, are Division 1 athletes in their own right in football and gymnastics respectively.
Umme said she started her daughters in track at a young age because they had a lot of energy as children.
“It was Amirah and Dahlia first, Layla was only 3 at the time when they first started running,” Umme recalled. “Of course, when she saw her sisters running, she wanted to do it too. Track is one of two sports they do. It’s one they love doing, so they do it year-round, but they do other sports to.”
Being multi-sport athletes is something the Beasley family hangs its hat on. Not too long ago, it was all the rage to play one sport year-round in an effort to master it. Nowadays Umme believes playing more than one sport is the key to success.
“We do a lot of research,” Umme said of her and her husband. “From the time they were little, they were consistently in sports. They’ve done every sport possible: swimming, basketball, lacrosse, tennis. We exposed them to different sports. All the research we have read shows specializing in sports when you’re young is not to their benefit.”
Amirah, a 16-year-old student at Washington Township High School, is a tennis player and competitor in the 800 meter and 400 meter hurdles. While she enjoys the hurdles, she prefers to run the 800 meter.
Dahlia, a 13-year-old student at Chestnut Ridge Middle School, competes in the 400 meter, 4×400 relay and the pentathlon, a 100 meter hurdle, 800 meter, shot put, high jump and long jump, in addition to playing field hockey. Her favorite event is the high jump.
“It’s fun,” she said. “You get technique down and you jump a certain way and it’s fun to look for the mat behind you. You’re kind of doing a flip.”
Layla, a 10-year-old student at Hurffville Elementary School, plays soccer and runs the 800 meter and 1500 meter. She likes running the 800 the most. Says Laya, “I like the 800 because it makes me feel like it’s just a 400 with one more lap.”
All three girls had a positive showing at the Amateur Athletic Union regional qualifier at Stockton University. The regional qualifier had representatives from four states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware. Umme said each girl could have up to 100 competitors per race.
The Beasley girls fared well in the regional qualifier, each punching a ticket to the national competition in Greensboro, N.C.
Amirah, a first-time AAU national qualifier, placed fifth in the 400 meter hurdle with a personal record time of 14.59 seconds in the 15-16 year old division.
Dahlia qualified for the pentathlon, where she placed third overall; won the 400 meter race with a personal record time 59.84 seconds; placed second overall in high jump with a height of 4 feet 6 inches and advanced in the girls long jump jumping a personal best 15 feet 3.75 inches, good for fifth place. All of these events were in the 13 year old division.
Layla, also a first time AAU national qualifier, earned third place in the 11 year old 1500 meter race where she had a personal best time of 5:26.
Nationals was a learning experience for the Beasley girls – while none of them earned a medal the experience itself was worth its weight in gold.
Layla placed 21st out of 300 girls in the 1500 meter race, a great jumping off point going into the next track season.
Dahlia finished in the top 20 of the pentathlon as well, but she recognized she has some things to work on.
“I’m going to work on high jump, arch and kick my feet up,” she said. “Long jump I’m going to try to stay in the air longer and endurance for the 400, throwing for shot put definitely.”
Having good genetics from parents who are Division 1 athletes is a good start, but hard work and dedication are two things that can’t be taught. Dahlia and Layla both hope their athletic career can carry them through college. Their older sister, Amirah, has other plans.
“I just want to be able to beat my personal records, that’s pretty much it.” Amirah said.
The drive is there for the Beasley girls – this is only the beginning.