A Bond Beneath the Success

Feb. 22, 2013

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By: Katherine O'Toole - Maryland Media Relations Student Assistant

Beneath this season's great success within Maryland's indoor track and field team lies a unique relationship between a nervous rookie and a more seasoned thrower. Freshman Chioma Onyekwere and senior Moriah Young have created a bond through their throws.

They may have different techniques and different practice schedules, but they share a love for the throws and an interest in different aspects of engineering.

With Young's years of experience in the throws at the collegiate level, Onyekwere has been able to learn and grow more than she could have ever imagined.

Although the girls' schedules leave little overlapping practice times, Young has been able to reach out to Onyekwere throughout the season and encourage her as she has grown and thrown better and better, week after week.

As a freshman, Onyekwere often felt nervous or unsure before meets. Young noticed this and made it a point to pump the freshman up.

"She was really nervous and didn't quite believe in herself. I told her all the time, especially in practice that I definitely saw potential in her," Young said. "I knew from the first time I saw her throw she was going to throw very far."

Going into college, Onyekwere set a goal to throw 50 feet. This was a goal she figured she would not reach, or even approach, until senior year. But through hard work, endless practices and taking advice from Young, Onyekwere improved from a shot put throw of 46-10.00 at the Terrapin Invitational early in the season to a remarkable 49-09.00 at the VT Elite meet. Her throw ranks fifth farthest in school history.

"I was just hoping sometime I would hit 50 (feet). I didn't really expect to PR (personal record) so much in such little time," Onyekwere said. "I'm so close to 50. I thought it would take me until senior year to accomplish that."

Onyekwere knows she owes much of her success to the team. She has received endless support from Young and her other teammates. They would even leave post-it notes in her room with encouraging messages stating, "You're going to get 50 this week!"

When it comes to Young, Onyekwere looks up to her as a role model and as someone she can learn from. Young started off the season winning the shot put in the first three meets.

"She's been here for such a long time. She knows so much," Onyekwere said. "I'm learning from her and looking up to her and I'm trying to live by her examples."

Even though as a senior this is Young's last season on the team, her freshman year does not feel that long ago. She uses her experiences and looks back on what kinds of encouragement would have helped her more on the team and then does her best to provide her new teammates with that kind of support. Despite being a self-proclaimed shy individual, Young continues to go the extra mile to support her teammates.

"I know from what I did as a freshman, I definitely do for them," Young said. "I talk to them. I cheer them on. I try to give them as much advice as possible. I make sure they aren't hesitant to come to me."

Young's encouragement to Onyekwere does not stop when they leave the track. Young is a mechanical engineering major and although Onyekwere is officially a Letters and Sciences major, she plans to declare a bioengineering major. Young offers advice on the professors she found most helpful and says she helps out Onyekwere if she gets stuck in her studies, that is if she can remember the material dating back to her freshman year.

Throughout the short indoor season, it is easy to see how Onyekwere has improved and even easier to see how Young has influenced her to do so. Approaching the ACC Championships this weekend, Onyekwere looks to reach that 50 feet goal and Young looks "to just do the best I can."