La Porte High School senior Imani Mark knew that she could run fast, but she always believed that her grades had to be as high as her race times were low.
That dedication to excellence, both on the track and in the classroom, was recognized by the Houston Touchdown Club on May 23. Imani was named the Outstanding Female High School Scholar-Athlete in Track and Field during the group’s spring awards dinner at the J.W. Marriott in Houston.
Finalists for the award are selected on the basis of academic prowess, athletic skills and citizenship as demonstrated in their extra-curricular activities.
The award was the culmination of a long list of honors that Imani has received for both athletics and academics over the past few months. Imani, who will attend Rice University on a full track scholarship, also will be recognized as a cum laude graduate during LPHS commencement on June 1.
It was not the “no pass, no play” rule that motivated her, but her mother’s insistence that Imani and her siblings do well in their classes. Johnnie Jones, a 1982 LPHS graduate who also ran track during her high school years, instilled in her the importance of always doing her very best in her classes.
“If I didn’t focus on my grades, I couldn’t play,” Imani said. She calls her mom “the driving force behind my success” and laughingly remembers the time her mom wouldn’t allow her to run in a junior high track meet “because I had ‘attitude.’”
Imani’s high school achievements include placing second in state in the 800-meter run, the same event in which she holds the school record and Bayshore Olympics record, in 2011. She also qualified for state in cross country—the first LPHS student to do so in 10 years—and placed 28th.
In addition, is a member of the 4 X 100 and 4 X 400 relay teams that hold the school records.
As a freshman and sophomore, Imani was the district champion and regional qualifier in the 800-meter and 400-meter runs, and the 300 hurdles, as was her 4 X 400 relay team. As a junior, she was district champion in the 800 and 300 and regional champion in the 800. Her 4 X400 team also won the district championship.
This year, she placed third at regionals.
As a child, Imani often won races against her neighborhood friends, but first entered organized sports when she reached junior high. In addition to running track, she played both basketball and volleyball before deciding to focus on track and cross country with the hope of someday earning a college scholarship.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Rice,” said Imani, who plans to major in international law. “I’m looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things!”
Because family is so important to her, she is thrilled that the university is close enough that her mother and siblings will be able to attend her meets. Imani’s older brothers, Marley and Farouk, both were involved in the athletics program at LPHS, and her younger brother, Jahvey, is an LPHS junior who plays football and run track. Younger sister Izihrie is a fifth grader at La Porte Elementary this year.
As she looks back at her four years at LPHS, Imani said, “The whole experience was great.” Among the teachers who made an impact on her life were English teacher Jennifer Humphrey and her coaches, Joel Fagan and Carolina Rodriguez.
In 10 years, Imani sees herself practicing law, traveling the world and possibly starting her own family. Running will probably continue to be an important part of her life. In fact, she hopes to try professional running and would like to try out for the 2016 Olympics.
The qualities that she feels are important—determination, positive attitude and commitment to doing her very best—no doubt will help her to achieve her goals.
“I will continue to work hard,” she said.
“Imani is one of the rare ones—she has the natural ability, the work ethic, the heart and the determination,” said Rodriguez. “When she sets her mind to something, she does everything she can to get it done. It has been a pleasure to work with her.”