With six new medals around her neck and growing stack of hardware and trophies at home, sprinter Samantha Ogbeiwi will be a considerable force to be reckoned with this weekend when young athletes from across North America converge in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Ogbeiwi, who will enter Grade 7 this fall at Katzie Elementary, is a rising talent on the track. She’s earned the B.C. standard for 12-year-old girls in the 100-metre, 200-metre and 300-metre sprints. And just last weekend saw her compete at the B.C. Athletics’ Junior Development Track and Field championships, a tournament for competitors aged 9 to 13.
The Ocean Athletics sprinter brought home four golds (200m, 300m, 4X100 and medley relay) and two silvers (100m, and shotput).
The 200-metre dash, she says, is her favourite.
That’s fortunate, because she’s entered in that event at Hershey’s Track and Field Games. The games are the largest program of its kind in North America, giving nine-to 14-year-olds the opportunity to learn and develop the skills required to participate in track and field events, inspiring them to excel. The 37th annual North American finals are Aug. 2.
When Samantha found out she qualified for the finals, she was thrilled.
“I’m excited. I think I’m going to do really well,” she says, exuding a quiet confidence. “My mom says, if you train hard, you will have a good result.”
Her mom, Dayo, seated nearby, nods. She’s encouraged her two older children, Samantha and Michael, 10, not only to get involved in sports but to train hard. Samantha runs, and does shotput and discus, as does Michael. Both kids play basketball, too.
Samantha is a member of the Ocean Athletics track and field club, offering training and coaching for athletes aged nine and up.
At home, her front sidewalk and an expansive, grass-covered boulevard function as an easy-access, outdoor gym.
Just steps from her front porch, the siblings help one another run drills on the agility ladder or work on improving upper body strength by tossing a medicine ball together.
After trying, and abandoning, dance lessons (she prefers sports), she started running competitively in 2012, quickly moving from longer distances to sprints.
“I get to express myself when I run.” At school, her favourite subject is no surprise. “Um, P.E.,” she says. She also likes social studies and math.
If the bedrooms of other girls her age are festooned with posters of pop stars and film heroes, Samantha has taped up hand-written training notes – lists of exercises, drills and goals organized according to each day of the week.
Above her bed? Two poster-sized drawings of a running oval, complete with lanes. She drew them to use to help plan in advance how she’ll perform her run – where on the oval she’ll turn on the power, and when she’ll pace herself.
That kind of discipline and focus seems to be paying off, as evidenced from last weekend’s provincial medal haul.
At the recent South Fraser track and field championships in Langley, she earned two golds, a silver, and a bronze, and received the award for outstanding female athlete.
She also competed at the Henry Jerome International Track and Field Classic this summer, taking part in the mixed relay.