Terrace brother and sister are jump ahead | Track and Field
Mountlake Terrace brother and sister Gifton and Chinne Okoronkwo are double trouble for triple jump competitors at the state meet.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mountlake Terrace coach Russ Vincent can't help but grin whenever he hears the name Okoronkwo.
For the state's other Class 3A coaches, their expressions will more often be a grimace when that name is announced — likely incorrectly — at the state track and field championships this weekend.
Mountlake Terrace has the state's leading Class 3A boys and girls triple jumpers in Gifton Okoronkwo, a senior, and his sister Chinne, a nationally ranked freshman.
Their arrival on the track and field landscape has been sudden and stunning.
Last spring, Gifton was playing soccer, and was an honorable-mention All-WesCo defender. His sister was still in junior high.
The siblings joined forces this spring when Gifton pledged allegiance to track and field and Chinne made her high-school debut.
Switching sports wasn't all that difficult for Gifton, who realized that triple jumping just might be in the family genes when Chinne started having success.
Gifton's friend and fellow Terrace triple jumper, Tye Esparza, also helped coerce him into the event. Esparza has finished second to Gifton eight times this spring. Okoronkwo has jumped 45 feet, 9 ¼ inches. Esparza's best is 43-0.
They are in the same flight in Saturday's 10:30 a.m. state finals at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.
"They're almost inseparable," Vincent said.
Meanwhile, Chinne's best of 40 feet is the top girls mark in the state for all state classifications. It's the No. 1 mark in the nation among freshmen, and No. 12 for all high-schoolers.
The triple-jump finals for 3A girls are Saturday at 1:45 p.m.
When Chinne graduates, the state's other triple jumpers can again look forward to climbing the podium. For a while. Another Okoronkwo, 4-year-old sister Leynna, waits in the wings.
"We have her on the track already. We're getting her started real early," Gifton joked.