Throughout her high school and college career, USC senior Chioma Okonkwo was heavily involved in her school while competing in track and field. The sprinter is a Civil Engineering and Building Science major.
“It means a lot to wear the shield, put it out front and compete with a purpose, you’re competing for a whole team, you’re competing for a [national championship],” Okonkwo said. “We’re the top one percent if not the best school in the nation.”
During her time at USC, she ran the 100m and 200m events. She initially ran the 400m, but her coach Quincy Watts had her consider sprinting events.
“I guess he saw something that I couldn’t see at first,” Okonkwo said. “Since last year, I’ve been running the 100m and 200m full-time.”
During the Ron and Sharlene Allice Trojan Invitational, Okonkwo earned a personal best of 23.65 in the 200m, coming in at second place.
In the previous season, Okonkwo got a personal best of 11.56 in the 100m at the Texas Relays. That year, she placed 10th in the 200m at the Pac-12 Championships.
Okonkwo was sidelined with a hamstring injury for most of her sophomore season. That was the same year the girls track and field team won the NCAA women’s outdoor track and field championship.
“Unfortunately, I got injured before championship season, but it definitely inspired me to come back and want to contribute to my team’s culture,” Okonkwo said.
Outside of track, Okonkwo is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, USC EERI, and the USC Black Student Assembly. Okonkwo takes pride in being a student athlete; she likes studying while pursuing her love for competing in track.
“My parents are both immigrants from Nigeria and they came in here, they went to school, so they always instilled go to school,” Okonkwo said. “I do love this school and academic part of my major but also I get to compete for a team.”
The coaches hold the students accountable when it comes to academics.
“If academics aren’t covered first, you’re not even gonna touch the track, you’re not gonna practice, you’re gonna be in tutoring every single day,” Okonkwo said.
Okonkwo, an Inglewood native, began running track during her time at Murrieta Mesa high school. She went on to set five school records and become the Inland Empire 200m and 400m Champion.
While competing in track, Okonkwo was the 2019 class Vice President and AVID Vice President. She was also a member of the National Honor Society and the French Club officer.