With each passing year, Kingsley Okoronkwo gets more comfortable with the intricacies of the triple jump: the hop, step and jump.
It’s a very technical event and this season has been a breakthrough in that the Christopher High junior can go out there and let it fly without having to worry about his form too much. The added experience and confidence allowed Okoronwko to unleash a personal-record (PR) jump of 42 feet, 11 3/4 inches in a four-team meet at Watsonville High on March 16.
It ranks as the top mark in the Central Coast Section this season. Okoronkwo’s previous best was 41-9 at last year’s Pacific Coast League CCS Qualifier. Three days after nailing a huge PR, Okoronkwo went 42-3 1/4 at Christopher’s Garlic Classic Invitational.
In the latter meet, the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder established a PR in the long jump, taking first at 21-4 1/2 inches. With his latest performances, Okoronkwo has set himself up to be one of the favorites to win the triple jump at the CCS Finals and possibly the long jump as well.
“Over time, getting comfortable has been a good confidence booster for me, especially being out there with a lot of good competition,” he said. “It’s really helped me not having to worry if I was doing this right or wrong and just having it be more natural.”
When the official said his mark for his triple jump PR, Okoronkwo was caught off guard.
“I was pretty surprised by it actually,” he said. “Getting on the board has been my biggest challenge so far in the triple jump and getting that far was a really big accomplishment. I try to perfect every single phase of the jump and I’m really trying to hone on it one by one and let it all flow together as I progress. It’s definitely been a slow progression but a consistent one.”
Also at the Garlic Classic, Cougars sophomore Caitlynn Holt was dynamite, winning the 100-meter dash, 200 in a PR of 27.88 seconds and 300 hurdles in a PR of 48.10. Melia Middleton took first place in the 400 meters in a PR of 59.62 seconds. Okoronkwo doesn’t usually show too much emotion in the field, but he couldn’t help but get pumped after producing a career-best triple jump.
“I was delighted and never expected a mark like that,” he said.
Okoronkwo has plenty of motivation after a disappointing showing in last year’s CCS Championships. He advanced to the finals in the long jump, but couldn’t record a clean jump and didn’t have a placement. The triple jump was supposed to be his coming-out party onto the CCS scene.
However, he didn’t advance out of the Trials after going 39-11 3/4, two weeks after going 41-9 in the PCAL CCS Qualifier.
“I’ve definitely taken last year’s CCS not with a grain of salt, but still a reminder of how I performed that day,” he said. “As I have got a PR and done better for myself, it’s still a constant reminder of how I can get better and not have to beat other people that day, but beat myself and go forward.”
Okoronkwo was particularly excited for his performance at the Garlic Classic because it was done amid cold, heavy conditions featuring pouring rain, not exactly the best conditions for the explosive running or jumping events.
“It was terrible weather all day, so I’m excited to see what I can do with more jumps to come,” he said. “I definitely think I can do more than my PR in better weather.”
Okoronkwo also competed in the 100-meter dash, taking seventh place in a PR of 11.71 seconds. He has also ran legs in the 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams this season along with the 200 in the season-opening dual meet against Live Oak.
Okoronkwo’s versatility means he can score valuable points for Christopher during meets, but once the end of the season rolls around, he’ll hone in on his two best events, the triple and long jump. Okoronkwo said he loves the sport of track and field as much as football, where he’s been a standout as an all-league linebacker and receiver.
Both sports are challenging in a different way and keeps him focused to also excel in the classroom as well. He carries a 4.0-plus GPA and had three older siblings who all went to Christopher.
“Sports have been something my siblings have done and they were good at it,” he said. “I, being the youngest, wanted to do better than them and that helps drive me to be my best.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]