WVU Hires New Assistant Gymnastics Coach

Zaaikra Muhammad

West Virginia University gymnastics coach Jason Butts has announced the hiring of former Mountaineer NCAA All-American Zaakira Muhammad as an assistant coach.

Muhammad, a four-year letterwinner at WVU from 2015-18, returns to Morgantown after serving as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan last season. The Pennsauken, New Jersey, native will assist the Mountaineers on the coaching of all four events and oversee the team’s community service outreach program.

“I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Zaakira as our new assistant coach,” Butts said. “Along with being a Mountaineer alum and an NCAA All-American, Zaakira has spent two seasons coaching at the Division I level and putting together an impressive set of skills. She will make an immediate impact on our program on all four competitive events, as well as recruiting. She also brings a new perspective to the staff and team.

“Zaakira’s experience as a former Mountaineer student-athlete will help with a smooth transition, and it enables her to build on the legacy she has already established. She is a very motivated and capable coach, and I am so excited about the future of the program with her on board.”

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to be back at the place that molded me to become who I am today,” Muhammad said. “I am honored and excited to join the staff at WVU and create new memories with this amazing team and staff.”

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While at Eastern Michigan, Muhammad assisted in the team’s choreography for balance beam and floor exercise, as well as the Eagles’ recruiting efforts. She also coordinated all team activities.

EMU claimed three team victories in a season cut short due to COVID-19. Individually, Muhammad helped coach a pair of gymnasts to All-Mid-American Conference Second Team honors.

Muhammad began her coaching career at Temple as a graduate assistant who was responsible for coaching the Owls on vault. In her first season, she helped TU claim its first-ever Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship title in school history. She also assisted in coaching three individual gymnasts at the 2019 NCAA Athens Regional, including ECAC Rookie of the Year Ariana Castrence on vault. Temple ended the year ranked inside the top 50 of the Road to Nationals Rankings, its highest ranking in more than 20 years.

While at WVU, Muhammad competed in 51 career meets and totaled 1,552.8125 points for the Mountaineers. She also ranks No. 10 in program history with 16 career scores of 9.9 or better and No. 9 with six career vault scores of 9.9 or better. Muhammad finished her career with 75 podium finishes and 20 event wins.

An individual all-around qualifier at the 2017 NCAA National Championships, Muhammad tied for eighth place on floor and earned All-America Second Team accolades. She became the first WVU gymnast to secure All-America recognition at the National Championships since Janáe Cox in 2007. Prior to the NCAA Championships, Muhammad finished second on floor at the Big 12 Championship and earned a spot on the All-Big 12 Championship Team.

Zaaikra Muhammad

Additionally, she just missed individual qualifying for the 2018 NCAA National Championships on vault as a senior, finishing third at the NCAA University Park Regional Championships.

The two-time team captain received the Linda Burdette-Good Award for the Most Valuable Gymnast a trio of times (2016-18) and was twice named a Joseph Medrick Award honoree (2017-18) as the team’s highest all-around scorer of the season.

Muhammad shows career highs of 9.95 on floor, 9.925 on beam, 9.9 on vault and uneven bars and 39.575 in the all-around.

Academically, Muhammad was named an NACGC/W Scholastic All-American as a senior and was a three-time Academic All-Big 12 Second Team member (2016-18). She also landed on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll, as well as the Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll while at WVU.

Additionally, Muhammad gained experience mentoring young gymnasts as a coach and counselor for the West Virginia University gymnastics summer camp. She also was an assistant level 10 coach for TNT Elite Gymnastics.

Muhammad graduated from WVU with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in May 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in higher education.

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