A NEED TO BE ON THE TRACK
Ayoola said she’s always been tall – since “forever.”
“It was mainly in the eighth grade – they told me to try out for basketball. I did not make it,” she remembered with a laugh.
She did, however make the volleyball and track and field teams as alternatives, and it was on the track she found she excelled. High jump and shot put – an unlikely pair – specifically. She would go on to win a Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) state championship in the high jump for Grand Rapids Christian High School, so when she arrived in Hyde Park, she wasn’t quite ready to hang up the spikes.
Ayoola had to talk her way onto the team though, first. It didn’t take long.
“She wasn’t on our radar,” UChicago assistant track and field coach Stephen Fleagle said of Ayoola, who was not initially recruited to the Maroons’ squad.
After meeting with the timid first-year and looking up her high school marks, however, the rest was history. Ayoola went on to break the UChicago school record in the outdoor high jump (1.69 meters), qualify for three NCAA Championship meets, win a league title, and most recently, earn her first All-American honor with her eighth-place finish at the 2018 national meet in May.
Why do track though, with so much else to do in her studies in medicine?
“Track really provides a different aspect of my education that no other activities do, and that’s kind of the self-discipline aspect of it,” Ayoola said. “I think with high jump, it’s a sport where I’m actively trying to beat what I did last week, or last year.
“So it feels like everything I do is about making myself better, and it’s about putting in the work, and trying to get the results I want.”
Ayoola finished her UChicago athletic career tied with the school record in the outdoor high jump at 1.69 meters.
She adds, though, it’s not just about the numbers game. It’s also about the relationships.
“At the same time, it’s such a team sport that I don’t have in any other of my activities because everyone is working in the same way that I am, to make themselves better, and then for the sake of the team, we work together.
“We just kind of have this communion and fellowship that I love and I think it’s been a big part of why I’ve enjoyed UChicago so much, is the friendships that I’ve made.”