All Bee Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year: Clovis West's Nikki Okwelogu

State discuss champ counts music among high-achieving performances.

The Fresno BeeJune 26, 2013 

In the end, Clovis West High assistant track and field assistant coach Mike Guidry says, "it all came together" for Nikki Okwelogu because she made the right decisions.

She became a valedictorian, state champion in the discus, Harvard-bound student and, now, The Bee's female Athlete of the Year in the sport, because she made "tough choices," Guidry says.

This wasn't, Guidry emphasizes, judgment normally associated with prep student-athletes.

This wasn't about good or bad.

This, he says, was about Okwelogu making calls such as taking eight or 10 advanced placement courses in high school or, on a given day, working out on her own or studying.

"Everyone loves a champion and all that," Guidry says, "but there was a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that took place and hard decisions that she made very well. She's one who performs at a high level with a lot of things. And you don't just walk into a state championship without making tough choices along the way.

"For Nikki, finally, this was about a lot of things connecting and lining up together."

In the end, Okwelogu's weighted 4.4 grade-point average was expected; her postseason explosion in the discus was not — considering what had occurred a year earlier.

It was at the 2012 CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium that the daughter of Nigerian immigrants threw only 121 feet and 7 inches while failing to make the finals.

But fast forward to this season's progressive display of excellence: 161-6 in the Tri-River Athletic Conference meet, 164-1 in the North Area, 168-4 in the Central Section Masters, 170-6 in the state preliminaries and, finally, 173-9 in the state finals.

That's a school record, No. 3 nationally for the season and No. 6 all-time in the section, according to section historian Ron Blackwood.

Okwelogu also won the section and repeated her fourth-place finish in the state in the shot put. And her season-best mark of 48-101/4 was No. 12 nationally for the season, a school record and No. 7 all-time in the section.

All that's sweet music to an 18-year-old captivated by it.

"I sing a lot," she says. "I watch a lot of musicals. I'm a musical freak. Give me lyrics and I will memorize every line."

Her mother, Agnes Akabogu, has heard it all: "Every day she sings — before she showers, while she's making breakfast, before she goes to bed."

Actually, the mother wonders, if not singing formally hasn't been "one big oversight."

Maybe at Harvard, the daughter says.

Meanwhile, the father, Bernard Okwelogu, says his "heart is filled with unassailable joy" at her achievements.

And his credits read long: Clovis Unified district teachers, counselors, principals, the "entire" Fresno community, the "solidarity" of her family, and the influence of the Igbo descendants of Nigeria who have flourished professionally in the area and throughout the U.S.

"It takes a village," he says, "to raise a child."

Athlete of the Year: Nikki Okwelogu

Grade: Senior

School: Clovis West

Throwing delight: She won the discus (173 feet, 9 inches) and repeated her fourth-place finish in the shot put (47-6) at the CIF State Track and Field Championships. The discus throw, crushing the state field by more than 22 feet, is a school record, No. 3 nationally for the season and No. 6 all-time in the Central Section. And her season-best shot put of 48-10 1/4 was No. 12 nationally for the season, a school record and No. 7 all-time in the section.

Next: Harvard.

 

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6366, aboogaard@fresnobee.com or @beepreps on Twitter.

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