Constance Ezugha pushed herself through her afternoon workout earlier this spring, sweating and straining.
On the other side of the track, Edmond Santa Fe High School coach James Edwards watched the team’s star. He stopped a freshman and pointed across the track at Ezugha.
"She looks like she’s training for an Olympics,” the youngster said to Edwards, wide-eyed.
The coach thought a moment about the out-of-the-mouths-of-babes comment.
"She might be,” Edwards finally said.
Ezugha dreams of the Olympics, but she doesn’t always see the same country’s name across her chest.
She is a first-generation American born to Nigerian parents. That makes her eligible to compete for the United States or Nigeria should she qualify for international competition one day.
That Nigerian-American background has also made her who she is today — an outstanding student with a 3.9 grade-point average and a 26 ACT score as well as an exceptional athlete with the state long jump record, four individual state titles and a track scholarship to Arizona State.
Because of her excellence, Ezugha is the recipient of the Bob Colon Scholarship, presented by The Oklahoman
and the Jim Thorpe Association to the top female high school scholar-athlete in the Oklahoma City area.
"She’s the total package,” said Lewis Rutherford, who was Ezugha’s first track coach at Ida Freeman Elementary in Edmond. "She was just really driven. She was just really focused and had a great direction about her.
"She’s just a special person.”
Austin and Stella Ezugha said goodbye to family and friends and everything they’d known when they left Nigeria.
They found a support network, though, when they settled in Edmond. The suburb had a small but growing network of Nigerians, many of whom were attending Central Oklahoma. That’s what the Ezughas did, Stella working on a food and nutrition management degree, Austin on a human relation services degree.
"Every parent wants their kids to be bigger and better than they were,” Constance Ezugha said. "They want their kids to have everything they had and everything they didn’t have.”
Austin worked two or three jobs at a time while Stella worked, then ran the kids to every practice and lesson.
Their children recognized their sacrifice and followed their example. They worked hard and stayed humble. Ben, the oldest, excelled at track, baseball, football and pretty much any sport he tried.