By Fabiola Aceves, March 21, 2023
Cal Poly Pomona long jumper Kelsey Ehinlaiye broke the school’s long jump record after she jumped 5.86 meters at the Mines Winter Classic and Multi in Golden, Colorado Feb. 3.
Ehinlaiye grew up in a very sport-oriented athletic family in Chino, California, and she attended Senator Ruben S. Ayala Senior High School in Chino Hills.
“My dad was on the volleyball team for the national Nigerian team as well as played soccer, and then my mom was a track and field athlete,” said Ehinlaiye.
Track and field was not Ehinlaiye’s first choice as a sport. She started out playing soccer her freshman year of high school and was approached by the track and field coach there.
“‘You’re going to do track for me next year,’” Ehinlaiye recalls being told by the track and field coach at Ayala High School.
“‘No, I’m not really into track like that,’” was Ehinlaiye’s initial response to the proposal.
After some consideration, Ehinlaiye, decided to give track and field a chance.
“‘I am kind of interested in track, I am pretty fast, I think I would do well,’” said Ehinlaiye.
Due to already playing soccer at the time, she had to make the choice between soccer and track per her father’s recommendations.
“My dad was like, ‘You got to choose one,’ and I went with track because I think I would perform better in it,” said Ehinlaiye.
During her high school career, Ehinlaiye was the varsity captain and received three Most Valuable Player Awards in the years 2017, 2018 and 2019. Unfortunately, there was no award in the year 2020 due to the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.
After graduating during the pandemic, Ehinlaiye considered many options for college. One main factor for her choice of CPP was how close the school was to home. She was also drawn to both the athletic and educational aspects of CPP.
“Cal Poly happened to be one of the best schools for that,” said Ehinlaiye. “Yes, academics played a huge role into it because I know track won’t be forever and education will. I just knew that at Cal Poly (Pomona) I could get a great education and I could also get the athletic side of it.”
This February, Ehinlaiye broke her personal best along with the school’s long jump record by jumping 5.86 meters to score a provisional mark. As an athlete, the feeling of breaking a personal best, let alone a record, is not always acknowledged due to the focus of performing well.
“I don’t think I was aware that I had actually broken it,” said Ehinaliye. “I think in the moment I was just so focused on hitting provo .” A “provo,” or provisional mark, is when an athlete is considered by the NCAA for a place in the national meet.
When describing her emotions after finding out she had broken the school’s record, Ehinlaiye said, “My head coach told me fairly soon because he posted it on Instagram. And I was happy about it, and he was happy about it. There were no tears, but I was definitely happy, I was ecstatic because I’ve hit provo.”
She drew inspiration from Tasha Danvers, an Olympian of the 400-meter hurdles, and talked about the importance of imagery as an athlete.
“I was like, ‘I want to go 5.85.’ I just kept saying it over and over,” said Ehinlaiye. “I even went on YouTube and searched up what the track looks like, and I was trying to imagine myself running down the track and jumping.”
Ehinlaiye was not the only one who put the art of imagery to the test.
Coach Ian Jennings, Ehinlaiye’s jump coach, had the number 5.84 in mind when it came to Ehinlaiye’s jump for the meet.
“I had texted my jumps coach, ‘Hey Coach J, I really want to hit provo, I want to go 585,’” said Ehinlaiye. “He is like, ‘That’s funny that you say that. The number that’s been in my head is 5.84.’”
Off the track, Ehinlaiye also plays a key role in the Black Student Union and Black Student Achievement Success & Engagement in Science, or BASES, Scholars.
Ehinlaiye is the Vice President of the Black Student Union and a mentor for BASES. She elaborated that she wanted to be a part of these programs to help her community.
“I really want to immerse myself in this community, and I want better for us,” said Ehinlaiye. “I want sufficiency and for us to not lack any resources that other groups at times get quickly.”
As a BASES mentor, Ehinlaiye helps incoming Black STEM freshmen students and guides them through their time at college.
As a mentor, she will invite her mentees to spaces like the African American Student Center as well as the Black Student Union
“It can be a lot if you don’t have any guidance or you kind of just throw yourself into the college life with no plan,” said Ehinlaiye. “We’ll just incorporate them in all these spaces where they can feel comfortable in their own skin as well as guide them through their academics.”
With a schedule like this, Ehinlaiye credited both her reminders app for keeping her on track and her motivation for wanting to reach her goals.
“If you want something so badly or if you want something to work, you’re going to make the time and the effort for it,” said Ehinlaiye.
As a general kinesiology student, she wants to be a sports medicine nurse to help athletes both mentally and physically.
“I do know the mental toll or the physical toll it can take on athletes when they are injured,” said Ehinlaiye. “In that aspect, I do want to help athletes get back to as closest as their 100% as they can so they could have the confidence to compete again.”
Receiving this honor will not stop Ehinlaiye from pushing herself to become better as an athlete and striving for higher marks.
“I want to go six meters and even further, if possible,” said Ehinlaiye. “As an athlete that is the only thing you ever want to do is to continue to get better.”
Feature image courtesy of Kelsey Ehinlaiye
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