Okoro Sisters Ready for NCAA Championships
AMES, Iowa – Iowa State seniors Ese and Ejiro Okoro represent one of the nation’s elite sibling duos in track and field and are set to compete at this week’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
The twins enjoy having each other at the meets, providing a constant in their travels and meet routines. While other variables like race times and weather may change, having family on site helps in avoiding stress.
“I like to room with her, so it’s cool to keep her a part of my routine,” Ese said. “She understands what I like to do, so it keeps me calm and relaxed.”
“It’s pretty cool,” Ejiro said. “I know how she is, and she knows how I am. When you go to competitions, you just want to be feeling good and not worrying about other people. It makes life easier when you don’t have to panic about anything.”
The Cyclone tandem has raced to several top-five finishes this season in their respective events. Ese, competing this week in the 400-meter hurdles, has recorded three such finishes, including an individual title at the Drake Relays where she ran a personal-best 57.43 seconds. The hurdler was happy with her most recent performance at the NCAA West Regional Qualifying meet, held in Austin, Texas.
“I think it went really well,” Ese said. “I still need to get my progression right, but it was still a good race. These last few practices have been really good, and that’s giving me confidence going into these big meets here at the end of the season.”
Iowa State sprints and hurdles coach Nate Weins was very pleased with Ese’s 57.54-second performance at the regional and emphasized the importance of her last few practices.
“[Ese] ran very well,” Weins said. “She was close to her PR and qualified in good position for the championships. We’ve been working on her step progression as she goes through the race, and she’s really starting to nail it. She’s going up against some tough competition. There are a couple Olympians in the race, so it’s going to be a very exciting race.”
In the 800-meter run, Ejiro has also found the podium, placing fourth at the Big 12 Championships and first at the Mt. Sac Relays, running her fastest time of the season at 2:05.20. Okoro qualified 12th at the west regional with a time of 2:05.57. After missing out on the NCAA finals last season, the Birmingham, England, native pulled out all the stops.
“This year, I said I was going to do everything I could to get myself here,” Ejiro said. “I know I’m fitter than I was last year, and coaches are telling me I have a great chance. It’s about working forward now.”
Despite being boxed in for much of the race, She performed well enough to qualify for the championships with a 2:05.57 time. Distance coach Travis Hartke is optimistic about Ejiro’s chances if she can go out with the right mental approach.
“She can’t be timid in the first lap,” Hartke said. “There are going to be girls running 2:02 and 2:00. She needs to believe she can be up there with them early and still come back strong in the second lap. That’s the mindset she needs because she still doesn’t realize how good she is and can be.”
The Okoro sisters will each face semifinal heats in the 400-meter hurdles and 800-meter run on Wednesday, June 5, at 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. PT, respectively.