Arinze C. Okeke ’18 won individual golds in the triple and long jumps at the recently-concluded New England Division III Indoor Championships and is in line to represent MIT at the NCAA Division III national meet. Okeke has taken major strides since entering the track scene in his high school days. Now he has set his sight on a first-place finish at the national meet.
The Tech’s February player of the month opens up about what it takes to get better at jumping, how he motivates himself, and his love for anime.
The Tech: Congratulations on first-place finishes in both the triple and long jumps in the New England Division III meet and on qualifying for the NCAA Division III Nationals. How does it feel?
Okeke: I am pretty excited. It has been my goal since the last season to jump over seven meters. My triple jump goal has not been reached yet but I feel that the nationals will be a perfect place to achieve that. I am aiming for first place and the school record. Currently my best is 14.79m but I would like to break the school records for both indoor (15.04m) and outdoor (15.13m) seasons.
The Tech: Have you always been a triple and a long jumper?
Okeke: I started track in high school and I was not as good back then. I started as a sprinter and jumper. My long jump was at 15ft and triple jump was at 32ft. After my first year in high school my coach kept me on the triple jump team but took me out of the long jump team. After I had improved at triple jump, I was added back to the long jump roster during my junior year.
The Tech: How does one improve at jumping, triple or long?
Okeke: The two key components are speed and power. If you have poor speed but good power you will not travel well horizontally. On the other hand, if you have good speed but no power you will not have as much air time. Here we train for both hand-in-hand. We do both Olympic lifts and sprint drills to work on our power and speed.
The Tech: You compete in both indoor and outdoor track. What is the difference between the two?
Okeke: For jumps there is not a whole lot of difference between indoor and outdoor besides the wind. If the wind is at your back, you might want to back up a bit so you do not foul as you are about to jump. If it is flowing toward you, maybe move up a little or just wait for the wind to die down.
The Tech: Is there such a thing as a favorite track? Are there tracks you prefer more than others?
Okeke: I really like competing at home. It is where we practice so there is a lot of familiarity.
The Boston University track is pretty good. That track is springy. When you are doing a triple jump you should stay vertical throughout. If you lean back, your leg is in front of you and then you are braking instead of pushing forward and that can hurt on a hard track as opposed to a springy track. So those would be my two favorite tracks.
The Tech: What is your goal for the NCAA Division III National meet?
Okeke: I am aiming for first place in triple jump. The long jump is more competitive. My goal for that event is to score as many points as I can, which requires finishing in the top eight. At the last national outdoor meet I was in eighth place and I got run down, and pushed out of scoring to 9th place, by the person who was behind me. Incidentally, he is currently ranked No. 1 in triple jump, so I am excited to compete against him. I am using that as my motivation.
The Tech: What do you like to do off the track?
Okeke: I am a Course 20 major. I am minoring in chemistry and maybe mechanical engineering or Japanese. For the Japanese minor you need six language classes and two cultural classes. I will definitely take the six language classes. My interest in Japanese stems from my love for anime since I was in middle school. So I thought it will be cool to learn the language. I am going to Japan this summer through the MISTI program and I am really looking forward to that experience.
The Tech: Today is the leap day of this leap year. You clearly love to jump. What makes jumping so appealing?
Okeke: I love jumping. It is something I do well enough to be able to compete. It is like some video games. You know how the game goes but you keep trying to get a better score each time you play. So I like that I can compete against myself as well as compete against other athletes. The other jumpers at MIT are also amazing and therefore we constantly keep motivating each other to do better.
The Tech: Thank you for your time and all the best for the national meet!
Okeke: Thank you.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. You can nominate your teammate or friend for Player of the Month at firstname.lastname@example.org.