May 4, 2013
This story ran in Saturday's edition of the K-State Sports Extra
By Mark Janssen
His name is Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye.
"It means `Nothing Is Impossible Under God.' " said the Kansas State long jumper/sprinter, who has shortened his first name to Ifeanyi (eh-fawn-e) for simplicity.
In a short time on the Kansas State campus, little has been impossible for Otuonye as he competes this weekend at the Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Waco, Texas.
The native of the Caribbean island of Grand Turk, Otuonye will be long jumping, plus running the anchor leg of K-State's 4 x 100 relay, and the opening leg of the 4 x 400.
"We saw him in Jamaica in high school and he was just a guy that we would like to have because he had experience in running on both relays," said K-State coach Cliff Rovelto. "I'm not sure if we looked at him as a long jumper who could run on relays, or a relay runner who could long jump. We just knew he could help us in a number of areas."
Rovelto continued, "He was a talented kid, but it wasn't like he was a super star. Now he's a freshman who will likely help us score in three events. You don't find many freshmen who can handle that kind of stuff. He's not a star yet, but he's improved a lot and has done more than we expected."
Otuonye arrived at K-State as a high 23-foot long jumper, but immediately jumped 23-11, 24-3 and 24-7 ¼ to place second at the Big 12 Indoor Championship, where he also placed sixth in the triple jump (47-2) and ran a leg on the fourth-place 4 x 400 relay.
In three outdoor competitions this spring, Otuonye has sailed 24-1, 24-3 and 23-4 entering this weekend's competition.
"His distances haven't improved this spring, but that's only because we're asking him to do so much on the track," said Rovelto.
Otuonye runs a 47-second opening leg on the 4 x 400 relay, where he is joined by Tyris Jefferson, Carlos Rodriguez and Chris Campbell.
In the 4 x 100, his partners are Jordan Oakry, Rodriguez and Jefferson.
"In my mind, I'm a jumper first. That's where my passion is," said Otuonye. "I think I have the speed to run the open 100 if I would train that way, but first I'm trying to learn how to harness my speed for the jumps. But if I would train for the 100 and 200 as a priority, I think I could be pretty good."
But Otuonye came to K-State to become more than pretty good.
"I wanted to come to a program that had a quality jump coach," said Otuonye. "I heard about coach Rovelto, and then kept hearing his name during the Olympics as coach of all those high jumpers. You have to be a great coach to coach all those Olympians."
Plus, "Purple is my favorite color," laughed Otuonye, who is the son of Eugene and Vivian and has brothers named Chibuchim and Tochukwu.
Grand Turk is in the British Overseas Territory where tourism is the No. 1 asset and cricket the favorite sport for the island where people speak English and a Bahamian Creole.
"It's really a small place in the Caribbean ... I don't even think it's on the map," said Otuonye. "It's an island of 4,000 where there's one high school so everybody knows everybody."
To get a better education in the classroom and a higher level of tutoring on the track, he attended Helena Jones Robinson High School in Jamaica, where he was the National record holder in the long jump and ran on a 4 x 100 relay team that set records for Turks. In addition, he was the Silver medalist in the long jump at the 2012 Central American and Caribbean Games, and Bronze medalist in the long jump at the 2001 Common Wealth Youth Games.
While the Caicos and Turk Islands include eight main islands and nearly 300 smaller ones, Otuonye said with a laugh, "We flew to all our meets against other islands, but the flights were as short as 15 minutes."
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