ACC women’s indoor 400m record holder. Miami women’s indoor 400m record holder. 2014 ACC freshman of the year. This week, Shakima Wimbley is the ACC performer of the week for the third time this year.
And yet, the one word repeated over and over again from her teammates and family members when describing her: humble.
This record-breaking star athlete still doesn’t even really know how fast she truly is.
“I still shock myself. Sometimes I’m just like, wow, Shakima – you’re really doing it…thank you, God,” the sophomore sprinter said. “Let’s keep pushing forward and let’s keep chasing those dreams. They don’t stop here.”
Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Wimbley, 19, is majoring in sociology with a minor in human and social development. She has been running track since she was seven years old.
Wimbley is not the only star athlete in her family. Her mom, Elizabeth, was also a track runner. She was the first woman in Broward County to break the 59-second barrier in the 400m in 1978.
“As kids, she put me and all my sibling into sports. She let us pick any sport we wanted, but we all somehow liked track and field,” Wimbley said.
Her brother, Joshua, ran track and field at the University of South Florida. Her sister, Jasmine, ran track in high school. Her father played professional basketball overseas.
State and county champion track runner Joshua Wimbley, 26, says his sister always looked up to him and was always there to support him at his meets.
“She would always say, ‘I want to be just like you.’ I would tell her, ‘No, Shakima … I want you to be better than me.’ She listened to me because … man … she’s taken off,” he said.
Wimbley was not always the star she is today. During her first two years of high school, she hit a growth spurt.
“It was hard for me to learn how to use my new long legs,” Wimbley said. “My body was maturing on me and I didn’t know how to go about it. So it was tough getting the speed back and the muscle strength going and everything.”
She was ready to quit. But then she met Dillard High School Track coach Davidson Gill, who later became her mentor.
“He told me the potential he saw in me. He stayed on me and he really helped me. I started practicing more. He started teaching me how to lift weights and do abs – all the small things that I was missing out.”
By her junior year, Wimbley was reaching new times and rankings.
“I started to get happy again and fell in love with the sport again,” she said.
By her senior year, she was No. 1 in the nation on top of county, district, regional and state champion. Wimbley then signed with the University of Miami and says this was a huge turning point in her life.
“I went to a high school that was in a neighborhood that wasn’t so rich. The education system wasn’t so great. When I came here I saw all the opportunities that I had here. I learned how to be more disciplined and more focused on school,” Wimbley said.
Wimbley always wanted to stay in Florida for college, but one of the main reason she picked UM is because of track and field coach Amy Deem.
“When I wasn’t so great, she saw the potential in me. … She stuck by my side and once I got good, I was already in love with the school,” Wimbley said.
Wimbley said she was used to being on top in high school, but at UM, she was quickly surrounded by other talented athletes.
“I was used to being on the top so when I came here, I was put back with everybody else. My pre-season of my freshman year I had a lot of things going on,” Wimbley said. “How am I going to get better? Do I belong here? Is this type of environment for me?”
Track at UM built Wimbley’s character.
“She’s grown more in one year than any athlete I’ve ever coached. I think the sky is the limit for her,” Deem said.
Wimbley feels her coach and teammates really changed her for the better.
“My coach said you deserve to be here, you made it here, now work for it. Then everything began to change. I got to represent the country. I won ACC, won freshman of the year, and everything began to blossom.”
Wimbley also manages her time to balances life as a student-athlete.
“There’s not much time for personal things like going out but when your playing a sport and you love a sport so much, you don’t mind,” she said.
Antonia Moore attests to her friend’s dedication.
“Track is the most important thing in her life. She really works hard to be the best at it…Track and family is Shakima,” Moore said.
Wimbley hopes to continue running track for as long as possible and be a professional track and field runner.
“I am going to try out for the 2016 Olympics which is next year, wow, that’s scary, so that’s my next goal,” Wimbley said. “My short-term goal is to become a NCAA champion. I want to experience all these things with my teammates…bring the U back to life.”
Wimbley didn’t always see track in her future but wanted to be a counselor for children.
“I didn’t come from a wealthy family. I didn’t always live in the best type of neighborhoods even though my mom was always on point with us but we weren’t rich,” she said. “I saw what some of my friends went through. I saw some of the things going on in the neighborhood and I always felt like I could help.”
Wimbley says she always wanted to be the helper and have track be on the side but now track is overtaking that. Instead, she would like to get her masters degree in Miami and one day start charities from endorsements from her running to help kids go to college who don’t come from a wealthy family.
When it comes to mottos, Wimbley lives by many things but it all comes back to the core of being humble.
“Be respectful, be caring, be open-minded and have an open heart. Be the best person you can. Always stay focused. Be a fighter. Never quit because quitters never win and winners never quit,” she said.