“This is going to be a landmark year,” regional director Tara Mohammad said before a crowd of about 1,100 people as she announced DC MIST’s overall winning teams at its tenth anniversary. Several Eleanor Roosevelt High School competitors held their breath, wondering if this could be the end of Dar-us-Salaam’s eight-year domination over the competition.
But it wasn’t. Despite a more leveled playing field as a result of 25-member cap, DUS inched past ERHS by a mere six points, with Herndon High School taking third place, marking the end of the most competitive tournament in the ten years since high school MISTer from across the region gathered for a weekend full of competition, community, and good old fun.
“In the end, the team that works the hardest wins. I have always been proud of that,” regional director Adam Kareem said.
Competitors were tested by theme “The Patience of Champions: Rising to a Better Self” both in their competitions and throughout the weekend. In addition to the 25-member cap, the tournament featured many changes. MIST consolidated children’s book into short fiction and web design and newsletter into social media – a web-friendly news and idea platform for MSAs. Quran recitation – broken into two levels based on amount memorized – swallowed the tajweed contest while Research in Action – a community-based research project to find solutions to local challenges – replaced community service and research methods.
To the awe of many, loved regional director Adam Kareem also announced he would pass his role to assistant director Tara Mohammad. Kareem is a last-year pHD mechanical engineering student at the University of Maryland.
“I have always seen MIST as something that I will honestly use to push me into Jannah. I have never felt I was giving anything to MIST. I’ve always felt the reverse,” Kareem said.
Challenged by close scores and difficult decisions, many judges found increments of less than one point separated first from second place in many competitions. Overall team point differences also slimmed for the third year in a row, with DUS inching past ERHS by 6 points as compared to 36 points last year, according to DC MIST records. Over a 100 points, however, separated Herndon High School from second place, a third place position that has long been in the dust when compared to first and second place.
“I thought [ERHS] had it. I was ready to take it all, make sujood right then and there for our hard work to pay off,” Sheima Gimie, ERHS head coach said. “Alhamdulillah, though, we will never complain for coming second overall. Every year we have struggles, and every year our successes are too shocking for words to describe.”
But for many competitors and organizers, the most memorable point of the weekend wasn’t who won gold, a testament to DCMIST’s wider mission.
“MIST has impacted me by showing me what true teamwork and friendship means. Winning isn’t everything, but enjoying the experience along the way is what really matters,” freshman Amarah Faizan of Al-Rahmah said.
Kareem and Gimie agreed, saying the high point of the weekend was the moment where teams cheered – many times against each other - and came together.
Orange uniforms peppered among Herndon’s red, Taqwa’s maroon, and other teams’ blues, greens, and yellows, a moment Kareem said exemplified the heart and sportsmanship of the competition.
A Saturday night town hall – which address the blues, greens, and yellows of challenges faced by Muslim youth – was also a high point for many competitors. Able to move past questions about dating, drugs, depression, and other challenges, the town hall culminated in a moment where all competitors sat down on the floor of the grand ballroom, surrounded by a sea of littered round tables and chairs.
“These chairs and tables are obstacles,” Kareem said. “When you’re on the ground, they seem bigger than they actually are. You have to change your perspective.”
He then asked the competitors to squeeze onto the ballroom’s small stage, illustrating that changing their point of view would make them see the chairs and tables as little things and find their way to their way out - the door to Jannah.
Even with this year’s burgeoning attendance and programs, the years ahead signal challenges. Attendance jumped to 541 from mere 40 in 2003, a trend that forced DC MIST organizers to limit the number of competitors to 25 per team for the first year ever. While there are no immediate plans to change venues from the United of Maryland, College Park – a venue valued for it’s accessibility, affordability and compactness- DC MIST organizers plan to look into additional revenue options to finance bigger and better tournaments.
Points and changes aside, DCMIST’s tenth anniversary ended with a ringing chant that defines its history thus far: DCMIST, we rise. DCMIST, we rose. DCMIST, we won. DCMIST, we’re done.
The location of MIST Nationals – where top five winners from all regions compete - will be at Detroit insha'Allah.