by Siera Jones
Running has always been one of Martha Bissah’s greatest joys, but she views track and field as more than just a sport. To the Norfolk State middle-distance runner, her running ability has brought her education and opportunity, as well as joy, and will remain a central piece of her life long after she graduates college.
Bissah led the NSU indoor track team to a second-place finish in the 2020 MEAC championship and was named MEAC Outstanding Female Track Athlete of the Year. This was Bissah’s third time receiving the award, and she has by no means been a stranger to great accomplishments inside and outside of her college career.
Bissah chalked up her third Outstanding Female Track Athlete of the Year award to consistent hard work and a hardened mentality.
“It’s not really easy… it’s all hard work and you gotta be mentally prepared,” she said. “Mentally it’s all you.”
Bissah grew up in Accra, Ghana, where her path to success began. She qualified for and competed in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games at the age of 16 and won gold for her performance in the 800 meters—becoming the first female athlete from Ghana to do so.
“It really put me in the right direction,” Bissah said. “When I went to that Olympic games, it gave me insight about my career because I came out with a glorious future.”
However, Bissah isn’t expecting her 2014 performance to be her last appearance in the Olympics. She said, “It really gave me a bright future because I’m always looking to reach that level again.”
Bissah has garnered an impressive collection of achievements since her performance at the Youth Olympic Games, and she has helped carry NSU’s women’s track and field team to success throughout her career as well as deliver a MEAC championship title to the women’s cross-country team.
Norfolk State University Track and Field and Cross-Country coach Kenneth Giles discussed her MEAC award and the invaluable role she plays in both programs.
“It’s a great reflection of who she is as a student-athlete. She’s put in the hard work and she’s earned every accolade that she that she’s got while she’s been at Norfolk State University.”
Bissah’s hard work is a prime example for her teammates on how to achieve success.
“She’s put the team on her back for the past three, and three-quarter years she’s been here. What she will leave behind is the hard work, the dedication. The rest of the student-athletes can look at her and they can model themselves after her,” said Coach Giles.
Bissah’s dedication to both her track and cross-country careers at Norfolk State give her a unique advantage over her competition and pushes her closer to her goal of becoming a professional track athlete.
“Running cross country will help me to work on building my miles and then get me back right into the [track] season, so cross country and track go together and help me build my endurance,” Bissah said.
Bissah is eager to begin the 2020 outdoor track season, but her final indoor season isn’t over yet. Her performance in this winter’s indoor track season has allowed her to qualify for her fourth NCAA final round championship, which is scheduled to take place in Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 13th, and she has high hopes for her performance there.
“I think it’s a good achievement, but I really want to win. I don’t care who was faster than me qualifying. I don’t look at that. I’m going there to execute my risk and see what I can get from it, and I know that it will carry me into this outdoor season,” Bissah said.
Coach Giles shared her excitement for the NCAA tournament.
“My expectation is for her to go out there, give 110%, and hopefully make first-team All-American if not a national championship,” he said.
Bissah revealed that she models herself after her favorite athlete Ajeé Wilson of the USA Olympic track team. “She is my role model. I look up to her a lot. I watch all her videos and running techniques,” she smiled.
Bissah also shared that she recollects advice from her coach as she trains everyday. “My coach has told me that you have to take action to actualize your vision because vision without action will become a nightmare.”
Bissah is working harder than ever to actualize her vision for the future and aims to make a strong finish on the indoor season and carry her momentum into the outdoor season this spring. She and Coach Giles are expecting nothing less than a MEAC Championship title for her final season with the Spartans.