Her name is Mame Diop. She is a senior multi-talented athletic superstar.
You may know her for breaking the school’s career goals record, but she is far more than just a goal scorer. She is a competitive, loyal, and hard-working Senegalese American woman, and her teammates can attest to her personality both on and off the field.
Mame Diop has been named MCPS’ 4A North Division defensive player of the year in basketball (2021-2022). She also holds the school track and field record in Triple jump, along with being region champion in Triple and Long jump. Unsurprisingly she has scored 42 school career goals record with 6 total assists, as the three-year captain of the girl’s soccer team.
At three years old, she was first introduced to soccer by her father who played on the Senegalese national soccer team. She started playing soccer with six-year-old boys like her brother in Takoma Park. She described it as “hectic” and admitted that she didn’t love it at first but she ended up playing it for 15 years.
“My dad was coaching my brother’s team at the time and he would have to take care of me. So I would obviously go with them to practice and I guess one day he just decided to try and let me play since then I’ve just been playing,” says Diop.
Regarding soccer, her goals were set early on. Her mind focused on it to the point where she even thought about the Women’s National soccer team. That was up until last year when she tried out track and field and “fell in love with [the sport]”. She doesn’t regret playing soccer but she thinks it is time to let it go.
When asked if she knew when she scored the goal that broke the school career goals record at the game against Paint Branch HS, Diop said, “Yeah. It was actually one of the best moments in my sports career history. I scored… and all my teammates were into me and we were there, cheering. It was really heartwarming. I just expected it to happen as I worked towards it and I got here so now I am going to try and get 45, try and get 50. As soon as I reach my goal, I always start planning for new goals.”
Her answer to how others view her achievements was, “I don’t think I can tell people how to react. I am so thankful for everyone who tells me that they are proud of me and who encourages my success. I am so thankful to them. It was something that I was working hard for and I knew that I would get it so now that I’ve gotten it. I’m going to try and do more. I’m going to try and do better. Now that I’ve broken the record. I’m going to try and make sure nobody else can beat it. I want to be remembered here.”
“The most important game to me was Sherwood. I’ve been playing since freshman year here obviously and they’ve kicked our butts ever since freshman year, they’ve kicked our butts, and this year we beat them, we were down 3:1 with 10 minutes left and we came back and we beat them 4:3. That was the most important game,” she explained joyfully.
While she excels at soccer, Diop loves track and field. She knows her love for track and field won’t fade, “when it came to basketball and soccer, I never fully loved it; I was kind of pushed into it and I was fine with that, the likeness stayed the same throughout the years I played.”
Diop feels that the track community is a community where everyone wants everyone else to succeed, and notes that it is not the same in every sport. Diop’s face lit up once the topic of track and field was brought up. For Diop, the difference between track and field and other sports is that with “track and field everything is fun.” Her main priority is not worrying about how she’s competing but actually enjoying herself. She found a way to be competitive and have fun in track and field. With soccer, when she didn’t do well it started affecting her mental health, school, and other aspects of her life.
Her father “is really firm about soccer” so he wasn’t thrilled with his daughter doing track and field at first but she describes him as “supportive” as he grew with her success. Her mother doesn’t really care much about sports and wished Diop did cheerleading or dance, but luckily still supports her.
Her introduction to basketball in 8th grade is quite amusing. Coach Desmin Wade, the Varsity Boys Basketball coach, and PE teacher “kind of forced [her] into it” but she didn’t want to since she sprained her ankle. She hated basketball at first but then she started playing basketball over the summer with an AAU team which is a sports team outside of school. Her team even won the Adidas Gauntlet which is a ‘’multi-stop travel team circuit for Adidas-sponsored teams to gain exposure in front of college coaches, media outlets and their peers.”
Unfortunately, she won’t be playing basketball this year. In her words, “my basketball dreams are done. It’s because I’m doing indoor track and I intend to pursue track and field in college so it makes sense to just do track and field [because] that’s my main sport. If I were to do basketball instead of indoor track I would be falling behind with my jumping standards that I need to meet in order to do college track and field.” She notes that playing basketball came with a lot of injuries which she would like to avoid going forward.
When asked about how she is able to juggle SGA (Student Government Association), soccer, soccer practices, and school, she laughed while saying “that’s a good question because it’s really hard and I get really little sleep but in the end, it is all worth it. One day, I will be a civil engineer. I keep telling myself that it’s worth it. At the end of the day, I like playing soccer, it helps me clear my head and it helps me get out of the house, and stay active and for SGA, I just love helping the school, and being around people opens up many opportunities so I just tell myself it’s worth it. It’s really hard though.”
Her explanation as to why she chose to run for SGA president is “It looks good on college [applications], yes. But also, as sitting down with my friends, we were talking about how it’s the same people who do SGA and there’s nothing wrong with that but it’s just it’s the same people all the time and I felt like there wasn’t enough representation of the whole student body so I wanted to try and see if I could do something about that.”
“I think it’s very difficult being a student-athlete like the discipline you have to have in order to come back from practice and force yourself to do your work because you’re tired after practice and you just want to go lay in your bed” Diop notes.
The advice she gives to student-athletes is “the student part always comes first, no matter how good you are at your sport, colleges will not give you an offer or give you a scholarship for sports if your grades aren’t up to bar. So always put the student part first. Nowadays, school and being educated is a very important part of society so I think you should put your school first.”
Her reaction to how she felt about focusing on track and field for the winter and spring seasons is “I feel like I’m going to miss basketball a little bit but track is just so fun and I love it so I’ll be okay. I’m going to miss the basketball coaching staff though.”
“Track and field coaches, Mr. Oxley and Coach McLean, I love those people to death like they are my favorite people on the planet, and Coach Anderson, he was the jumping coach, he’s not coming back this year and I’m so so sad but track and field coaches I love them to death,” says Diop. She adds how amazing Coach Jenna Essenmacher is, that they’ve been with each other for 4 years and how she loves the Blake coaching staff, especially the track coaches.
“This year, I’m really excited because I get to play three sports with Gabby Franklin. She is so amazing. She is one of the best teammates you can ever have. She is so uplifting. She always wants to see you be great,” says Diop.
Ms. Carolyn Fox, assistant varsity girls soccer coach, and math teacher described Diop’s leadership style. “She is focused, driven, [and] a team player. When I say team player, in class, she works with those around her very well, and then because soccer is a team sport. She pulls up the strength of other people on and off the field.”
Sophomore teammate Sofia Bartley explained how “Mame’s a very compassionate person [and] likes to see [her teammates] succeed,” and talked about how Mame welcomed her since she was a freshman when she first got on the varsity team “because it’s kinda hard being the youngest on the team sometimes.”
Senior varsity girls soccer co-captain Gabrielle Franklin feels that Diop is very spirited even when people aren’t already hyped up. Diop was her first friend at Blake when she transferred and made her feel welcome on the team.
Varsity girls soccer coach Jenna Essenmacher. Feels that Diop is one of the strongest leaders she came across in her 15 years of coaching. “She [just] has natural leadership, people naturally follow her, look to her for direction. She takes on a lot of roles by herself. One thing she has done [uniquely] this season is score against strong opponents.”
Diop concludes that she could not see herself not doing sports at all. “I think I always have to be active in something. I think when I am older and I am not playing sports as much as I am now. I will still have to find something to do. I would probably go for a run or go to the gym more often,” adds Diop.
No matter what sport she is in, Diop’s talent both in athletics and leadership puts her in the spotlight on the field. She is a shining star in the school who any future-oriented students can look up to. Diop will make the Blake community proud as a soon-to-be notable alumnus.