Last weekend’s New England Championship in Boston saw impressive performances from several athletes on the track and field, but the highlight of the meet was provided by Ijeoma Uche ’21, who broke a school record in the long jump. With a leap of 20-3.00, she is the first long jumper in program history to break the 20-foot mark, and her award-winning performance helped the women’s team place fourth out of 27 teams. For her outstanding outing, Uche has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.
Herald: Congratulations on breaking the record! How did it feel to contribute so much to the team’s success?
Uche: It felt great. I actually broke the school record last year and then a senior broke it right after me, so to get it back and actually hold it this time made it better. My teammates are really supportive, so they made the experience even better. … I’m enjoying the season right now, and I can’t wait to see what the future has.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
To go far this season, to win the Ivy Championships and to definitely go and perform at higher ranking schools and actually be competitive with them.
Who is your favorite professional athlete?
I don’t think I really have one. … I just admire all the long jumpers. I take little things out of every one person professionally, so I don’t think I have a favorite. … I have a love for the sport itself and not for just an individual.
How long have you been involved in track and field?
Since freshman year of high school. I was always doing long jump. I think I picked long jump because I couldn’t do the triple jump, and I fell in love with (it). I hated sprinting, and I enjoyed jumping more and was good at it, so I kept going with it.
If you could pick any other sport, what would you play?
My coach is going to hate me for saying this, but it’d have to be volleyball. I actually played! I played since sixth grade, so I really enjoy volleyball.
What goes through your mind before you go for a jump?
I put my mind where I want to be. In my mind, I’m thinking “attack this jump as if it’s your last.” Every single time, attack this jump.
What are some of your favorite memories with the team?
Definitely last year at my first (Ivy Heptagonal Track and Field Championships). The energy and the support you get from the team is amazing. … You feed off other people’s performances, which makes your performance better. We have some enthusiastic and supportive teammates, which makes the experience even better. Everyone gets into it, even our coaches.
How do you feel like sports have influenced the rest of your life?
It definitely sets up a structure for my day. Especially here at Brown it’s very rigorous academically, and (sports) serves as a place of relief. Maybe (if) I’m not doing as well in a class, I can go to the sport I love and do my best and know that I feel good again. I feel like myself. Being at Brown definitely challenges you in multiple ways and having that outlet that you just enjoy and have a passion for really takes the experience a long way.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.