After Brilliant Debut Season for PU Women’s Track, Amaechi Competing in Discus at World U20 Meet
WORLD CLASS: Obiageri Amaechi competes in the discus this spring for the Princeton University women’s track team during her freshman season. After a superb debut campaign which saw her break the school record several times and finish seventh at the NCAA Championships to earn first-team All-American honors, Amaechi placed first at the USA Track & Field Junior Championships with a personal best and Ivy League record heave of 186’11. Amaechi will now compete in the IAAF World U20 Championship in Tampere, Finland from July 10-15. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)
By Bill Alden
Obiageri Amaechi focused on sprinting and jumping events when she started her high school track career as a freshman in 2013.
While Amaechi mainly did the 100, 200, 4×100 relay, long jump, and high jump competing for Abraham Lincoln High in San Francisco, she did start dabbling in the discus and shot put.
By the spring of her sophomore year, Amaechi realized that her future in track lay in throwing events.
“I threw about 148 feet in the discus by the end of the year and that is when I started to really focus on throwing,” said Amaechi.
“I was progressing a lot. I still sprinted and jumped, but I made a change in my priority practice-wise. When I first got to practice, instead of going with the sprinters, I would go with the throwers.”
Amaechi’s rapid progress put her on the radar of college track programs. Initially, she was considering Stanford and Cal, intending to stay in California. Those plans changed when Stanford coach Michelle Eisenreich came to Princeton.
“She was one of the first coaches to reach out to me so I decided to follow and at least give Princeton a try, go take a visit and see what it was like,” said Amaechi.
“I really liked the small campus. I think I am more of a small school type person. Intuitively, I felt like I could see myself at the school. I liked the environment and the people I met. I felt welcome.”
Amaechi decided to come east to Princeton and excelled in her new environment. She set a school record of 172’ 10 in her first meet of the outdoor season. After breaking that mark several times, Amaechi placed seventh in the NCAA Championships with a throw of 177’8 to earn first-team All-American honors.
Building on that performance, Amaechi placed first at the USA Track & Field Junior Championships with a personal best and Ivy League record heave of 186’11. Amaechi will now compete in the IAAF World U20 Championship in Tampere, Finland from July 10-15.
For Amaechi, keeping up with her schoolwork while adjusting to college track proved to be a juggling act.
“I am usually someone who is academics first, but this time you prioritize your academics but you also prioritize your athletics,” said Amaechi.
“Which means instead of completely skipping practice, you have to fit it in somewhere while also prioritizing your schoolwork. It is a lot about time management.”
Amaechi didn’t waste time making an impact, starting with the school record throw of 172’ 10 in the Sam Howell meet on April 6.
“To get the record felt really good because when I came in, I had tendonitis in my knee,” said Amaechi, who competed in the shot put during the indoor season, taking fifth in the Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Champions with a mark of 47’ 2.25.
“It felt really good to know that it was still in me and I was able to still do well.”
As the spring unfolded, Amaechi kept breaking the discus record, taking second at the Outdoor Heps with a throw of 179’1 and then hitting 179’3 at the NCAA East Regional.
“I felt each week working with my coaches, I learned things,” said Amaechi.
“It was working with new people and being efficient with your practice time and learning that when you practice is not only about being a passive recipient of information. In order to make a productive practice you need to give feedback, there should be constant back and forth communication to make the progress.”
At the NCAA meet, a downpour soaked the discus competition but Amaechi pressed on.
“That was one of the most challenging competitions, mentally you really had to have a lot of perseverance,” said Amaechi.
“I had to put up with the hail and the rain and also deal with the fact that I had fouled on my first two throws. It took a lot of mental control to focus on the moment and not everything else.”
That focus helped her come up with a mark of 177’8 in taking seventh and earning first-team All-American honors
“It feels great to know that the work and time I put into the sport is giving back to me,” said Amaechi. “It feels really good.”
Amaechi’s work kept paying off at the USA Track & Field Junior Championships at Indiana University, where her personal best and Ivy League record heave of 186’11 earned her first place and booked her a spot for the World U20 competition.
“That junior national meet was really hard; last year, I competed at the same meet as a senior in high school and that was my first really, really big meet and I didn’t exactly know what you are qualifying for,” said Amaechi.
“This year I changed everything because I was seeded first and I knew how big of a deal the meet was so the expectations and the pressure was increased 10 times. That made it really, really nerve-wracking. I fouled my first throw and on my second throw, I got 176’1 which put me into second place. On my third throw I was thinking OK, now that I have a legal throw, it is time to get after it and let it go. I was happy it happened, I was not expecting a PR.”
As Amaechi looks forward to competing at the Junior Worlds, she isn’t dwelling on setting another personal record.
“I usually don’t have expectations for myself,” said Amaechi, who is currently training at home by working out at Lincoln High. “I just want to throw well and we will see where that takes me.”
In the wake of her brilliant college debut, Amaechi is looking to branch out, on and off the track.
“I feel freshman year is more about adapting and adjusting and next year I want to focus on thriving,” said Amaechi, noting that she may try the weight throw during the indoor season next year.
“Last year I had to get used to college so this year I want to take more advantage of the resources at my school and try more new things.”
With the way that Amaechi is thriving in the discus, she has designs of trying to make the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“Once I can throw the ‘A’ standard for the Olympics in discus, I want to figure out whether I would like to compete for the U.S. or Nigeria,” said Amaechi, who holds a dual citizenship. “I would like to throw 200 feet. That would be about the ‘A’ standard, so that is my goal for sophomore year.”