High School Track & Field

Onaleye caps Paetow career as a state champion

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 5/8/21

When she came to Paetow from Morton Ranch going into her sophomore year, Tumi Onaleye’s world changed.

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High School Track & Field

Onaleye caps Paetow career as a state champion

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When she came to Paetow from Morton Ranch going into her sophomore year, Tumi Onaleye’s world changed.

Onaleye was introduced to a new way of doing things in track and field, so much so that she refocused once she realized the sport could be her ticket to college.

Onaleye started taking the sport seriously, set goals and heeded the teachings of her coaches: girls head coach Erin Atwood, boys head coach Kenneth Decuir, assistant coach Alonzo Adams, and jumps coach LeVar Brown.

More than anything, Onaleye determined she wanted to leave Paetow a champion. At all costs.

And she did, making program history in the process.

Onaleye is the Panther girls’ first state track and field champion after winning gold in the triple jump at the Class 5A state track and field meet Friday, May 7, at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas in Austin. Onaleye, who will continue her track and field career at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, posted a mark of 40-feet, 1.25-inches.

“It was one of my biggest goals. I wanted to leave here a champ,” Onaleye said. “This is how I wanted to end my year. This is how I expected it. This was the plan. It was overdue. This means a lot, more to me than probably a lot of things I accomplished this year.”

Onaleye effusively praised her coaches, all of whom she said helped her build character and get serious about taking track to the next level.

Paetow’s coaches all share the same philosophy of making the athlete as great as they can be; not only in winning and losing, but in an athlete competing against themselves and improving every week.

‘Don’t let good be the enemy of great’ is a popular saying of Decuir’s.

“Paetow is one of the best things to ever happen to me,” Onaleye said. “They know how to help kids in their certain events, and they help us get to college, things like that. They helped me focus on my events and getting things right, and I really respect that because they believed in me.”

In 2019, Onaleye started her track and field career doing the long jump and hurdles. But as he was watching her hurdle, Brown noticed how well she pushed over the hurdles. He suggested she try the triple jump, which is more about speed and pushing off the board and going forward, whereas the long jump requires high hops. Onaleye did not get high off the ground.

“When she did the triple jump for the first time, she was already doing some of the hardest things naturally that are so hard to teach,” Brown said. “Her form was terrible, but she was natural at carrying her speed through the jump and extending, which came from hurdling. She would extend over her second phase kind of like she was going over a hurdle.”

Onaleye’s form eventually developed to rival that of some professionals that Brown showed her. Brown said Onaleye perfecting her technique has been her biggest growth as an athlete over the last three years. She mastered her arms, phases, toe points and landing through tireless work.

“I made her a video of her first triple jump and each meet all the way up until the (regional) meet; I’ll add this (state) meet to it,” Brown said. “So, she can see her progression and can see that she worked so hard to get where she got.”

Onaleye’s senior season is one for the books.

She won the 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles at the District 19-5A meet and won the long jump and triple jump at the 19-20-5A area meet. At regionals, Onaleye booked her trip to state by winning the long jump and finishing second in the 300 hurdles (she finished ninth in the 300 hurdles at state).

“My mindset was to just get out there and be big and do what I can,” Onaleye said. “I was going to trust my training, trust myself and trust God. I left it all out there.”

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