Civil engineering major and sprinter Chioma Okonkwo hopes to medal in the NCAA Women’s Track and Field Championships and perhaps even run in the Olympics.
As she waited for her mother to pick her up, ninth grader Chioma Okonkwo watched members of the Murrieta Mesa High School track team practice. The track coach, sensing Okonkwo’s possible interest, asked if she’d like to join them. Although dressed in black leggings, high-top Converse sneakers and a Forever 21 tank top, Okonkwo ran a few laps and stretched with the athletes.
Then the wind sprints began. Blessed with incredible speed and determination, Okonkwo ran so fast that the impressed coach asked her to join the team on the spot.
She had but one request: “Bring real running shoes next time.”
As a freshman at Murrieta Mesa in Riverside County, California, Okonkwo not only made the varsity team, but she also immediately challenged a senior as the team’s fastest women sprinter. As a junior, Okonkwo became the Inland Empire 400-meter Champion. The following year, she took the 200- and 400-meter crowns.
Today, the 21-year-old USC Viterbi senior competes against some of the fastest women in the world as a member of the USC Track & Field team. As a junior, she ranked in the top 50 nationally in the 200 with a time of 23.4. This year, Okonkwo has equaled her personal best in the 100 and hopes to make the finals in the 100 and 200 at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in June and become an All-American. She dreams of possibly participating in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.