All those years ago, Omahri Sturdivant joined the new indoor track and field team at Amsterdam High School, and didn’t mean for the sport to become much more than a chance to keep in shape and improve his speed ahead of a lacrosse season he intended to play the following spring.
Nearly a decade later, and now a graduate student at the University at Albany, Sturdivant is thrilled — and surprised — with how much more dedicated to the sport he became.
“If you’d asked me back then, I’d say I’d never be here right now,” Sturdivant said Thursday during a phone interview from his hotel room in Florida.
Now 22 years old and working on a master’s degree in higher education, Sturdivant will compete Friday in the NCAA East Preliminary Championships at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. He is the No. 37 seed in the competition’s triple jump with a mark of 50 feet, 10 inches, and needs to finish within the top dozen to further his college athletic career.
He’s an underdog to qualify for June’s 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, but the 2016 Amsterdam High School graduate is confident.
“The expectation is to PR and make it to nationals,” Sturdivant said. “I’m going in with high hopes and expectations for myself. Training has been going well, and we’re on the right path.”
As a high school freshman, Sturdivant joined head coach Kevin Wilary’s indoor track and field team to work as a sprinter and get ready for his lacrosse season. Quickly, though, his focus on the track team pivoted to the long and triple jump events — and, to some surprise even to himself, he elected that spring to stick with his new sport rather than return to his old one.
“And I’m glad I did,” Sturdivant said.
Laughing, Sturdivant recalled how his first impression of the triple jump was that “it didn’t seem like a fun event.” Soon, though, that changed.
“It was just fun to see my progress in it,” Sturdivant said.
A Section II standout during his high school career, Sturdivant has been an all-conference selection and champion during his career competing for UAlbany in the America East Conference. This year is the first that Sturdivant has made it to the NCAA East Preliminary Championships, but the Amsterdam native thought he was on track to make the event last year prior to concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic canceling the season. Sturdivant had won the America East Conference championship in the triple jump for the second consecutive winter indoor season last year prior to the outdoor season being called off.
Sturdivant elected to return to UAlbany for one more season since the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to all athletes this past year. Sturdivant has already earned undergraduate degrees in communications and psychology, and said he plans to spend the 2021-22 academic year at UAlbany finishing up his master’s, and volunteering as a coach with the track and field program. After his stay at UAlbany is complete, Sturdivant said he’d like to get into college coaching, full-time, and his long-term goal is to become an athletic director.
Right now, though, Sturdivant’s focus is on the present and recording a best-ever mark in Friday’s competition. He needs to greatly outperform his pre-competition rank to advance to the national championship, but that doesn’t intimidate him.
“All that matters,” Sturdivant said, “is how far everyone jumps on that day.”