First-year Obiageri Amaechi joins the track and field team as one of the nation’s most coveted recruits. Her personal best discus throw (177 ft) ranks fourth amongst the Class of 2021. Amaechi is also a force to be reckoned with for shot put, where she is 10th in the country. This summer, Amaechi competed for Team USA at the 2017 Pan American Junior Championships, and took fourth in discus.
Amaechi begins her collegiate career this Saturday at the New Year Invitational home meet.
DP: When did you begin throwing?
OA: I started throwing my freshman year of high school. I did track in middle school — but just long jump and running. My older sister did it and she told me to try it, and so did my coach. It’s not a sport that you see a lot of other girls doing, but when I started out, I really liked it and I stuck with it.
DP: What have been the highlights of your athletic career so far?
OA: Freshman year, the week before the fall state meet, I remember that I had my first good throw. It was like 80 feet. Then, at the all-city state meet, I threw against this senior girl, and I just remember battling head to head, and I hit triple digits for the first time.
Sophomore year, I started to really improve in discus. I ended the year at about 147.7 [pounds], and I went to state. It was the first time I medalled at states — I came in sixth.
Junior year, I went to Arcadia and missed prom, and I came in second place for discus and shot put. By the end of the year, I threw 166.6 and I went to state, and I actually won! I came in first for discus and fifth for shot put.
Senior year, I threw my best throw in discus at states. It was 177, which is the farthest I’ve ever thrown. I came in second. For shot put, I won on my last throw.
After states, usually my season ends. But after senior year, there was the Outdoor Junior National Competition. I went in not knowing how big the competition was, but I ended up in second place. I didn’t know that if you came in first or second place, you made the National Team and you could go to Peru and compete at the Pan American National Games, on the U20 Junior National Team.
Peru was a really cool experience — I ended up placing in fourth, and my teammate placed first. During the summer, I was in Princeton for [Freshman Scholars Institute], and I went from Princeton to Peru for four days.
And now I’m here!
DP: What has training been like at Princeton? What’s a typical day of training?
OA: After I go to all my classes, I’ll go and throw for an hour and a half. Then I will do some sprints in my workout, and I lift.
During practice, I do a lot of drills and then I work my way up and progress to actually doing a full throw.
Right now, I’m learning a new technique for shot put. I’m not gliding anymore — gliding is when you stand one foot and you hop back and throw. Now I’m learning how to spin when I do shot put. I’m learning how to rotate on my feet.
It’s a lot harder and I’m trying to pick it up, but it feels like I have two left feet. I have my first competition on this Saturday, so I’m hoping it goes alright. I’m not used to it yet, but it’s baby steps!
The advantage to this technique is you can use your speed more, so if I can get it down, hopefully I’ll have a better throw. I’ve been working on it since we got here — around three months.
I practice six days, and I’m off Saturday. I alternate days that I do shot put and discus. I like discus better. It literally is lighter, and it feels more natural for me than shot put!
DP: You’ve been working through some minor knee injuries — how have you dealt with injury at Princeton?
OA: When I first started training, I figured out I had patellar tendonitis. I love weight lifting, and I couldn't squat as much as I used to. At one point, I couldn’t even run. It’s crazy — being an active person, it was hard to just have to sit down at practice at times. I’m doing a lot better now. My baby goal is to squat 300 by the end of the year and to get back into lifting [Amaechi’s record is squatting 396 pounds]. One good thing that came out of it is learning how to take care of myself.
DP: What is your routine leading up to a competition?
OA: I don’t really have a routine, but I mentally prepare. I focus on me. When you start comparing yourself to other people, you defeat yourself. You have to focus on what you’re doing and that’s the only thing you can control — or else it’s self-sabotage.
In general, for life and sports, I need “me time.” I need to be alone sometimes, and have time to reflect. I’m more of an introvert. I like to sit down and write poetry and reflect.
DP: How have you integrated into the team?
OA: I think integrating into the team has been a challenge for me. Collegiate sports are very different from high school — [in high school,] if I didn’t want to go, I could just tell my coach I’d be there tomorrow. Here, you have to think about the team. I feel like it’s a “growing up lesson” — you have to push yourself to do the little things that you just don’t want to.
[Senior] Kennedy O’Dell is great, and I look up to her. She’s an amazing person. She’s tough on you when she needs to be, but she’ll be there always.
DP: What are your goals for this upcoming season, and for your time at Princeton?
OA: Right now, I want to get down the gliding technique for shot put. But, in general, my goal is to be more open-minded, find what my passions are, and not be afraid.