April 28, 2014

Staying On Track

By Peter Zona
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Senior Stephanie Okpoebo (Chelmsford, Mass.) has had a truly outstanding career during her four years as a member of the Holy Cross track and field team. As the owner of seven school records, this two-season athlete has twice been named Patriot League Track Athlete of the Meet for her accomplishments at the 2013 Patriot League Outdoor Track and Field Championship and at the 2014 Patriot League Indoor Track and Field Championship. She has additionally earned All-New England honors six times, been named to the Patriot League first team on six occasions and twice been named All-ECAC.

Okpoebo started running track at the age of fourteen during the outdoor track season of her freshman year at Chelmsford High School. After initially playing soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter, she sought a sport to participate in during the spring season. She received advice from her coaches, teachers and friends that she could make a good short distance sprinter. This persuaded her to join the team. In addition to the short sprints that she was most interested in, her track coaches saw that she had great potential within the sport and encouraged her to try other events like the high jump and the longer sprint races. She even considered trying the hurdles and the long jump so that she could participate in the pentathlon. Her early success led her to commit to running both indoor and outdoor track for the remainder of her high school years and into college.

Upon arriving at Holy Cross, Okpoebo made an immediate impact for the indoor track team. She won the indoor 200 meter dash as a freshman at the 2011 Patriot League Indoor Track and Field Championship. She considers this win to be her most memorable moment as a Crusader because, "It was the first time I realized that I can have a major role in scoring points for our team." She had no idea just how successful her career would go on to be.

Over the course of her career, Okpoebo set and reset numerous Holy Cross records as she currently owns school records in seven events. These records are in the 55 meter (7.14 seconds), 60 meter (7.49 seconds), 100 meter (11.76 seconds), 200 meter (24.14 seconds), 300 meter (40.52 seconds), 4x100 relay (47.02 seconds), and 4x200 relay (1:42.24). When asked how it feels to have set so many school records, she said, "It feels great, breaking a school record never gets old. I never owned any in high school so I'm glad I own/share a few here."

In addition to all of these school records, Okpoebo also owns two Patriot League records, both earned at the recent 2014 Patriot League Indoor Track and Field Championship. For a rare time in her college career, Okpoebo was the underdog in both the 60 meter dash and the 200 meter due to the addition of Boston University and its strong sprinting team into the Patriot League. Despite being ranked second in the 60 meter dash and fourth in the 200 meter, Okpoebo walked away with the championship title as the sole owner of both league records.

Okpoebo has a chance to make even more history in the weeks ahead. With a win in either the 100 or 200 at the upcoming 2014 Patriot League Outdoor Track and Field Championship, she would join only six other athletes to have won the same event in all four years of their college career at the Patriot League Outdoor Track and Field Championship.

As recognition of her accomplishments, Okpoebo has been selected as the winner of the 2013-2014 John A. Meegan Athletic Achievement Award. This award is presented by the Holy Cross Varsity Club. Women's track and field coach Egetta Alfonso praised her by saying, "Steph is the most talented sprinter to have ever run for the HC track team. But her talent is nothing compared to the countless hours she's invested in excelling at the sprints. Over the past four years she's worked very hard to be the top sprinter in the Patriot League, enduring all the hard workouts as well as getting all of the little things done."

Off the track, Okpoebo is set to graduate next month with a degree in mathematics. While she is still working on figuring out her plans for after graduation, there is no doubt that she will have the same kind of success with the drive and determination that she has shown on the track.