From the day he took his first competitive jump, Will Claye has carried a dream.
Of finishing what his father started. Which is why Claye wasted little time making the jump to the college level.
Claye should still be a high school senior in Arizona. Instead, he enrolled early and joined the University of Oklahoma track team this spring.
And at just 17 years of age, Claye is already the top collegiate triple jumper in the nation, proving his dream of one day representing his parents’ homeland, the African country of Sierra Leone, in the Olympics may soon become reality.
"My goal is to be an Olympian,” said Claye, who will be gunning for the Big 12 and national outdoor triple jump titles in the coming weeks against athletes much older.
"My dad was a long jumper in Sierra Leone, but he didn’t quite make it to the Olympics.
"But hopefully, one day I can go there and maybe represent Sierra Leone in the Olympics.”
So far, Claye is on track of meeting that goal as soon as 2012 and the London Games.
After winning two state titles and setting the state record in the triple jump in Arizona, Claye decided to skip his senior year of high school and enroll at OU in January, a decision made often by football players but rarely by track stars.
Since arriving in Norman, Claye has even surprised himself with his immediate success.
After earning All-American honors in both the triple and long jumps and shattering the school record in the triple during the indoor track season, Claye has elevated his performance in the spring.
He owns the best outdoor triple jump of any college athlete this year, posting a personal best of 54 feet, 9.5 inches at the John McDonnell Invitational.
"The last time you hear about 17 year olds being that good, you go back to the 80s,” said OU assistant track coach Jeremy Fischer, who coaches the jumpers.