Chinne Okoronkwo stars in pole vault, long jump and triple jump for Mountlake Terrace
Chinne Okoronkwo is only a sophomore at Mountlake Terrace but is already a state champion in the triple jump and has the top marks this year in the long jump and triple jump.
Special to The Seattle Times
Five things to watch in track and field
1. Can the Kamiakin girls continue to dominate 3A led by Ellie Heiden, the senior who a year ago became the first girl to sweep the three sprint events in a big-school state meet since 2006?
2. What will be the Hannah Cunliffe effect on the 4A girls competition in May? Cunliffe has won races all over the world, but this is her first season competing for her high school – Federal Way.
3. Speaking of the Eagles, will Keenan Curran, Tyson Penn and company be able to lead Federal Way to a repeat as 4A boys state champs after the emotional, senior-laden team victory in 2013?
4. Does Bothell’s Cedar Park Christian have enough to make a run at a 1A girls state title repeat?
5. Budda Baker’s future may be in football, but as a junior the Washington-bound back helped Bellevue to a 3A boys state team title. Will the Wolverines repeat?
Chinne Okoronkwo knows there are decisions coming.
Soon, the recruiting process will start in earnest. But Okoronkwo still is relatively insulated from the pressures associated with schools from all over the country vying for your talents.
Okoronkwo is, after all, just a sophomore at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Her talents will be vied for, however.
Okoronkwo already is a state champion. She won the Class 3A triple jump title last May at Star Track, held each year at Mount Tahoma High in Tacoma.
Already this season, she owns the top jump in that event in the state at 38 feet, ¾ inches. During a national competition in Florida the first weekend of April, Okoronkwo leaped 41 feet, 6½ inches to win.
She’s also got the top long jump in the state of 2014, at 18-3½.
The long jump may not even be Okoronkwo’s second-best event. That could be the pole vault, an event that she finished second in at state a year ago.
“ It’s highly unusual,” Mountlake Terrace coach Russ Vincent said. “It’s been unheard of. In my 35 years of coaching, I’ve never had an athlete with that combination.”
As Okoronkwo gets older, and potentially closer to her goal of competing in the Olympic Games, her combination of jumping disciplines likely will force another big decision.
“I know that a lot of people say I will have to choose,” Okoronkwo said. “When I do need to, I hope I’ll know what to do.”
For now, Okoronkwo just wants to compete.
Her participation in that Florida meet came as a part of one of two National Scholastic Athletic Foundation teams. The NSAC has triple jump and javelin development programs for high school athletes that are chosen.
“They hold clinics all over the country for us,” Okoronkwo said of her eight-person team. “I’m training with some of the top athletes in the country.”
And beating them, and others. “It’s a really great experience to go up against all these athletes from all over the country,” Okoronkwo said. “I love it. It’s so much fun and like a family.”
Competing with family is familiar for Okoronkwo.
A year ago, brother Gifton Okoronkwo was a senior for the Hawks. He also won the state title in the triple jump.
“I’m not sure that’s ever been done ever, in any event,” Vincent said of a brother-sister combination winning the state title in the same season. “He competed so dynamically. Then Chinne matched it.”
Gifton Okoronkwo has moved on to Portland State, where he’s currently competing in track. His sister still has plenty of time left in high school to improve on her freshman winning triple jump of 39-0.5 feet.
She has gone over 41 feet already this spring, after all.
And then there is the pole vault.
“She’s the top returner in that,” Vincent said. “And there’s her long-jumping ability. She had a bad long jump meet at state. There could be a triple (win) in there for her.”
Okoronkwo went 12-0 in the pole vault to finish behind Mount Spokane senior Courtney Bray’s 12-7 a year ago. As for her long and triple jumping ability, that showed itself early on.
“People always used to tell me I had springs in my legs,” Okoronkwo said.
As a youngster, she used those springs as a gymnast. But once the seventh grade rolled around, Okoronkwo had tired of the gym.
“I was looking for another sport to get into,” Okoronkwo said. “I waited a year. And I wanted to do something outside to stay in shape.”
She found the Kirkland Track Club first. More recently, she competed with the Flying AJs out of Tacoma. Now, who knows how far that decision to start track and field will take her.
“I would love to go to the Olympics,” Okoronkwo said. “That would be so amazing. And I plan to get there one day.”
Until then, though, there is the high school season to think about. She wants to defend that triple jump title, and add the pole vault championship. No pressure, though.
“When I do track meets I don’t feel that pressure,” Okoronkwo said. “I just have fun with it. I’m always just hoping to improve on what I’ve already done.”