Onakpoma leaps to glory

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Fejiro Onakpoma
Fejiro Onakpoma

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High junior Fejiro Onakpoma has had a star-studded year.

During the basketball season, the 6-foot, 3-inch center/forward helped to power the Greyhounds to the state championship game in the Class L tournament. It marked the first time since 1974 that the Garnet and Grey played for a state championship. Onakpoma played an integral role on the team, averaging eight points and eight rebounds a game.

“I knew going into the basketball season that we had a pretty good team,” Onakpoma admitted. “We all had high hopes for a successful season but to play for the state championship was just an awesome feeling; certainly a great experience and something to build on heading into my senior season.”

Wanting to stay in shape and build up his leg strength during the offseason, Onakpoma went out for the track team this spring for the first time, and leaped to glory.

The junior triple jump threat finished second at the NVL championship meet and helped the boys win the title for the first time since 2010. Onakpoma went on to win the Class L state championship in the triple jump, and then placed fifth in the State Open with a jump of 44 feet.

Onakpoma’s leap at the State Open qualified him for the New England track and field championships, which were Saturday at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine. Onakpoma finished eighth (44-2.75) and drew the attention of college track coaches.

“I was a little nervous but at the same time I was prepared to do my best,” Onakpoma said. “I went out for track initially to stay in shape and build up my leg strength. Now, to have college coaches interested in me for track is just an incredible feeling.”

Naugy track coach Ralph Roper knew that Onakpoma had outstanding athletic ability and pursued the basketball star until he convinced him to give track a try. Success was inevitable once an event where Onakpoma could excel was identified. The junior’s work ethic did the rest.

“Coach Roper helped me to get the most out of my abilities,” Onakpoma said. “I try not to get too carried away because in sports you win some and you lose some, but I was really surprised to be a state champion and compete at the New England championship.”

The Naugy two-sport athlete is not about to get ahead of himself when it comes to making a decision on college athletics.

“I’m just enjoying being a kid and an athlete,” Onakpoma said. “I’m looking forward to going into my senior year have some fun playing basketball and then track and see where it all shakes out. Just going with the flow.”