Few New Jersey athletes combine athletic and academic success like Lola Agabalogun of Egg Harbor Township High School.
The senior won the state Group IV shot put championship with a school-record put of 40 feet, 7.75 inches last Saturday. Her winning distance came on her last put.
"I did a little jump at the end," she said. "I was shocked and excited."
Agabalogun will be one of the contenders at the Meet of Champions at the Bennett Center in Toms River on Saturday.
Her academic achievements are even more impressive that her athletic triumphs.
Agabalogun, 17, is ranked No. 1 in her class.
"Being No. 1 is not something I had in mind," she said. "It wasn't like, 'Oh, my gosh, I have to be No. 1.' I've just worked hard at school, and I put n my best effort to everything I do."
Agabalogun has not yet made a college decision but has been accepted to Yale, Rutgers and The College of the New Jersey. She is considering pursuing a medical career.
Agabalogun didn't play many sports before high school. She participated in dance. She's not sure if she will pursue track and field in college.
"Before this year, I didn't want to do track in college, but I guess now it's more of an option," she said. "I'm really focused on academics."
In addition to her track and field exploits, Agabalogun also is a member of the Egg Harbor Township Future Business Leaders of America and the Medical Explorers Club at Shore Medical Center in Somers Point. Both groups are involved in community service.
She lives in the Scullville section of Egg Harbor Township and is the middle of three children. He older brother, Tope, is a sophomore at Harvard and younger brother Femi is in the sixth grade. Her mother, Emi, is a pediatrician and her father, Abdul, is a computer technician.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, she discussed several topics, including the Meet of Champions and how she balances athletics and academics.
On winning a state championship: It was really exciting. I wasn't expecting it. My coaches were telling me I could do it.
On competing in the Meet of Champions on Saturday: I'm very excited. I'm still kind of shocked I'm going to be able to compete with the best people in New Jersey. I'm going in with the mindset that I've done really well this year, so if things don't work out I'll be OK.
On how she became involved in track and field: My freshman year I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I wanted to try something new. My older brother did track, so he encouraged me to go out for track. I'm also not the most coordinated person with stick and a ball, so I thought let me try track instead of lacrosse or softball. I don't know if I liked the shot put right away, but I was good at it so I wanted to help out my team. It was fun to improve at it.
On how much form and technique is involved n the shot put: I would say it's 60 percent form and 40 percent strength. You can be a really strong person, but if you don't have the technique you will plateau with how far you're throwing. To really get the far throws, you need a lot of technique.
On how she balances athletics and academics: I think it's just time management. I prioritize what I need to do. You can easily get overwhelmed by having practice to 4:30 or 5 p.m. every day and then going home and doing homework for five (Advanced Placement) classes. But I just prioritize everything that needs to be done.
On what she does to relax: I've been playing piano for a while and that's some thing I really enjoy doing. If I'm stressed out, I'll play piano for a while. I like music a lot. I just (play) my favorite piece at that time. A lot of it is classical. I don't have one genre that I always go to.
On advice her parents gave her: They always tell us to do the best we could with whatever opportunities we were given. That stuck with me.
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