At an event where only the top track athletes from across the state were invited to compete, it’s an honor for any high school student to be there, even if no medals are won or attention received. But for Valley Stream North High School junior Anointing Onuoha, she left with both.
Onuoha took first place in the long jump with a distance of 18 feet, three and one-quarter inches at the New York State Winter Track and Field Championships at Cornell University on March 2. She became North’s fifth track and field state champion and set a personal best with her jump.
Twenty-four jumpers from the state qualified for the event and got three jumps each. From there, the top eight made it to the final round. In her third qualifying jump, Onuoha made her championship-worthy leap.
Track coach Michael Frazer thought the jump was going to be good when he saw Onuoha leave her feet. “When she was in the air,” he said, “it just looked like she fought more than anything else. She was really moving her legs, moving her arms, just looking to grab inches.”
When she landed in the sand pit she wasn’t sure how good her jump was, but it wasn’t long before she found out — 18.325 feet. Judges quickly measured the jump’s distance and posted it on a swiveling board. Once a score is posted on the board it rotates for everyone to see. From their vantage point, the North coaching staff was among the last people to see the board, but Onuoha’s gleeful reaction told them all they needed to know.
Although it was in the qualifying round, her jump carried over to the finals, which consisted of three more jumps. Because she was in first place, Onuoha got to jump last and see how the other girls did. Since none of the other jumpers beat her mark, Onuoha didn’t have to make another long jump to win the championship.
Frazer said that Onuoha is always calm, cool and collected during high-pressure meets, which is one reason why she’s so good. “Whenever I have a big meet,” Onuoha said, “I get my mental self ready because I think what it comes down to is definitely your mental game.”
After she clinched the long jump championship, the North coaching staff was taking pictures and celebrating until Onuoha said she had to prepare for the upcoming triple jump event. “We were so focused on getting pictures and she was the responsible one,” Frazer said.
Onuoha then placed third in the triple jump, but she’s not relishing in her state championship performance for very long; she already has her eyes set to the spring track season and setting a new personal best.
Although track isn’t thought of as a team sport, Onuoha said her teammates played a big role in her success this season. Their mantra was “VSN all day.”
“Our entire track team is a family,” she said. “We’re really close and we always support each other no matter what.”
In addition to her state championship, Onuoha, who also has a 97 average and is a member of the North girls’ volleyball team, was named Most Outstanding Female Athlete in the winter track category from the Nassau Country Cross Country and Track and Field Coaches Association.