Ijeoma Uche ’21 broke the University long jump record Saturday with a jump of 20 feet, 6.5 inches at the Yale Giegengack Indoor Invitational. She shattered her own previous University record of 20 feet, 3 inches that she set last season. Uche, who focuses solely on the long jump event, became the 15th-ranked long jumper in the country with Saturday’s performance and recorded the fourth best jump in Ivy League history.
Uche is coming off a First Team All-Ivy selection last indoor track and field season after winning the long jump at the Ivy League Championship. She also placed fourth and second at the last two Ivy League Outdoor Track and Field Championships. For her stellar long jump this weekend, she has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.
Herald: After setting the University long jump record last year, you broke your own record again this past weekend. What inspires you to continue to push yourself?
Uche: My goals. I have a great coach (Ken Hunt), and he’s a great person to be there consistently motivating me and not allowing me to lose sight of my dreams.
You are now ranked 15th in the nation in long jump and fourth in Ivy history. Where do you see yourself by the end of the season?
Hopefully (those rankings) can improve. I don’t want to set anything in stone, but I’m definitely reaching for it, and my goals are up there. With a great mindset and proper training … I can achieve those goals and knock some people out.
Do you do anything special in your training to get ready for meets?
With training, every day is important — we have speed day, we have tech day, we have speed endurance … I just lock into practice trusting my coach, trusting that whatever he has for me will better me as a jumper. There’s not one thing that I do that really helps me get to that one jump — it’s kind of a rocky road. The trust that I have in my workout plan is really what matters.
How do you prepare yourself for a jump on meet day?
I actually don’t get nervous until I step into the building. Before that I’m not thinking about it much. Once I step in the building, my whole focus is picking up, and I’m holding on to the cues that I’m used to and trusting my body that it knows what to do. Then all I need to do is go out and compete and everything else will come together.
In an individual sport like track and field, where everyone is training for a different event, how do you work with your teammates to accomplish your goals?
My teammates are awesome. I train with the jumpers, which include high jumpers, pole vaulters, long jumpers and triple jumpers. We benefit from each other because we pick up on the little cues that we don’t personally notice. Having another set of eyes that can help you become a better athlete is really helpful, especially from people that come from another event that have to use their (bodies) in different ways. They help you figure out how to implement that skill in your own event.
As the indoor season comes to a close, what do you hope to accomplish in the outdoor season?
It’s crazy that indoor season is almost over. Outdoor season is just another time to maintain my momentum with my jumps, keep jumping better and better and achieve more goals that I have for myself. Again, I don’t like to set concrete goals because things change day to day. Keeping the same momentum, attitude and heart for my sport will take me a long way.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.