Sought out by high school coaches while pursuing other sports, freshman’s passion found her
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 16:05
Freshman Precious Ogunleye had no intention of becoming a shot put or discus thrower.
Raised in Chicago, Ogunleye took to basketball and water polo at first. It wasn’t until her sister’s track & field coach insisted Ogunleye try out for a spot on the team that she considered trying something new.
“My sister said to just do it [try track & field] and see how it is,” Ogunleye said. “I could always go back to water polo if I wanted to.”
For Ogunleye, who ultimately made the team, the progress and success came quick.
“I came out my first freshman meet and threw around 30 to 36 meters, and my coach just told me I could do so many great things with them,” Ogunleye said.
By the end of that freshman year of high school, Ogunleye had a new passion. A successful high school career ensued, and when it came time for the Chicago-native to pursue her athletic career and education at the collegiate level, Ogunleye had options.
It didn’t take much to sell her on UCF. In fact, all it took was a meeting with head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert.
“When I first met coach Caryl, she reminded me of one of my high school administrators — same haircut, same last name,” Ogunleye said. "[That administrator] was a mentor for me in high school, and when I came here [and met Smith Gilbert], I knew this was the right place for me.
“Coming to UCF has been a great thing for me.”
It’s hard to argue when Ogunleye is part of a program that is set to send a school-record 14 athletes to the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville on Thursday. The No. 14 Knights, fresh off of winning a third straight Conference USA Outdoor Championship, are no strangers to performing at an elite level over the past few years, and this week they’ll get a chance to showcase their abilities on a big stage.
Each event consists of 48 qualifiers, with the top 24 finishers moving on to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, in June.
With veteran hurdler Jackie Coward leading the way, UCF has quite a few notable athletes heading to Jacksonville. Octavious Freeman and Aurieyall Scott have done significant damage in their sprint events this year, specifically the 100 and 200 meters. The Knights’ 4x100 relay team, which Freeman and Scott are members of, ranks second in the country.
UCF is sending four athletes to the Preliminaries in the long jump, and then there’s Ogunleye, the Knights’ first freshman since 2007 to participate in throws (shot put and discus).
Although Ogunleye insists that she has not performed to her full potential, she has no doubt in her mind that the UCF track & field team will impress this week.
“I think we are going to go out there and kill it,” Ogunleye said. “Every single one of us wants it. We all have that drive and are willing to go the extra degree.”