Onakpoma dominates during outdoor season
Matt Gad—Sports Writer
Oghenefejiro Onakpoma is a name that has been synonymous with men’s track and field for the last three seniors as the junior, triple jumper racked up plenty of impressive feats. Recently, he competed at the indoor national championships and also went to nationals last outdoor season.
“I want to go back,” he said. “I probably want to come top-three this year. I feel a lot more confident as a jumper and as an athlete and I know that me going to the meet is not the hard part; it’s just execution at this point.”
At indoor nationals, Onakpoma finished in sixth place and got All-America honors for a 15.42-meter jump and last spring he placed 18th in outdoor nationals with a 14.55- meter attempt.
“[Onakompa’s] still underachieving a bit and I think he’s capable of jumping much farther. He hasn’t quite gotten there yet but we all feel like he could be a top-three guy this year,” coach John Wallin said. “And there are hopes next year, if he stays healthy, that he’ll have a chance to win.”
Onakpoma is now fifth all-time in school history in the triple jump but Wallin thinks he may be able to jump further than all of them when it is all said and done.
“It’s a family here so they all want to see him do well. Despite the egos, it’s always good to see the record go higher and higher,” he said.
Onakpoma started his outdoor season by finishing 10th in the triple jump at the Florida Relays and then he was third in the triple jump April 13 at the UConn Northeast Challenge and third again at the Georgia Tech Invitational April 21.
“It’s important to see guys like [Onakpoma] succeed. He’s changed his entire lifestyle and it’s showed that if you do put in the work the results will come,” redshirt senior Hunter Stokes said.
Onakpoma will begin chasing more history Friday at the NE10 Championships, May 10 at New England’s and May 23 at outdoor nationals.
“My first goal is to capture another NE10 title with the team,” he said. Since he has obtained this high-stakes level in his competition, the bar keeps getting raised meet after meet, Wallin said, and as he continues to set new personal records the goals are only going to get more demanding.
“Most kids don’t ever reach what the coach thinks they can do. Maybe our ideas and thoughts are loftier than what’s realistic but there’s a lot of jump left in [Onakpoma] and he’s getting better and better at competing at the highest level,” he said.
The confidence in Onakpoma exceeds beyond just the coaching staff, though, and really fuels the chemistry within the team.
“He brings a lot of energy to the team and when people see him jumping they know he’s gonna bring everything he has every jump and gets everyone excited,” Stokes said. “And when the triple jump is happening on the last day of a meet it gets everyone revved up going into the rest of the events that day.”
Onakpoma does not just want to finish his career next year at Southern as just a triple jumper and a very solid track and field athlete. Like Wallin and the rest of the coaching staff, he has equally lofty goals in place that he wants to fulfill.
“I want to be the best jumper to leave the school,” he said. “I feel like the previous guys really set the tone, like Mike Lee, and for me to come after a guy like that…I just want to be the best.”