Cross country runner wears hijab, gets disqualified

Cross country runner wears hijab, gets disqualified
Noor-Alex Abukaram was disqualified from a cross country meet because her hijab violated a uniform policy. She says she ran races before, and it was never a problem. (Source: WTVG)

SYLVANIA, Ohio (WTVG/Gray News) - A member of the Sylvania Northview Cross Country team was disqualified from a district meet because her hijab was deemed in violation of the league’s uniform policy.

She told WTVG that she had run races before in her hijab, and that it hadn’t been a problem before now.

Last weekend, when she ran in the race, she only found out she was disqualified when she finished and tried to find her time.

“I felt embarrassed that I’d just ran this whole race and everyone on the sidelines knew that I was disqualified except for myself and the people I was running with,” Noor-Alex Abukaram said. “I felt like I’d been punched...like I got hit really hard”

According to a representative from the Ohio High School Athletic Association, runners are allowed to run with a hijab, but they must have a waiver from OSHAA granting permission, something the runner in question did not have.

Her coach and school hadn't filed the waiver because they didn't know it was a problem. It hadn't been thus far.

Nora said she's not upset her coach didn't tell her ahead of the race.

"You're at the start line at this point, right? And the race is going to start in 30 seconds, so I didn't expect him to tell me and completely, mentally ruin the race for the rest of my team," she said.

In a statement, the representative says, "Neither the runner, nor the coach, nor the school had submitted the waiver yet. The official was simply enforcing the rule. The school has now submitted the waiver, so the runner can run this weekend at regionals while wearing a hijab. We are also looking into her previous races to see why the officials let her run without a waiver in the events leading up to the district meet."

A representative from Sylvania Schools, in a statement says, "The athlete’s attire had not come into question at all previous competitions. The coach learned of the disqualification at check-in before the race. In order to be respectful of her religious views, he did not ask her to remove her hijab. Due to the disqualification, the coach requested that OHSAA acknowledge which rule was violated. The coaching staff has been in contact with the OHSAA to ensure her eligibility that allows her to wear her hijab in future races. We are happy that this valuable member of our team will be competing this weekend. "

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