The word most used to describe North Brunswick High School’s Nnenna Ibe this winter track season has been “consistent.”
That is, until the junior high jumper competed in the Meet of Champions on March 1.
“Whenever I go to big meets I know I’ll perform at my best,” Ibe said. “I know I can perform at a high level for my entire season, but I really tried to focus at the Meet of Champions, and it paid off.”
Ibe overcame an ankle injury in the preliminary to set a school-record 5-6 in the high jump at the meet, winning her the title and resulting in her being named the Home News Tribune’s Girls Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“The injury happened during my 5-4 jump,” said Ibe, “I twisted it a little, overextended something in my right ankle. I had a lot of adrenaline, so I didn’t feel it as much at the meet. An hour later it hurt really bad.”
Ibe was having a solid season before her win at the Meet of Champions, recording a top leap in the NJSIAA Group IV Relay Championships with a 5-4 on Jan. 17. She also registered respectable performances in the Jan. 5 Greater Middlesex Conference Relay Championship (5-4) and the Poreda Invitational (5-4) on Jan. 29, both good for second-place finishes.
“This year, she’s stayed consistent,” said Raiders head track and field coach Schwann Grimes, “she stayed in the 5-4 area for most of the season, but she really peaked, and it came together at the right time at the Meet of Champions.”
Ibe also set a school record in the triple jump, registering a stellar 37-3.25 at the Eastern States Championships in February. At the same meet, she edged her rival, Old Bridge’s Oksana Sokolova, in the high jump.
“Oksana is a really tough competitor and a really great high jumper,” Ibe said, “so competing with her always pushes me.”
Ibe’s improvement from her sophomore season is evident, as she’s added six inches to her top high jump height compared to last season, and more than three inches to her top triple jump. She’s become a force not to be taken lightly, and her coach is looking forward to how good she will be when she competes in her senior season.
“I’m extremely proud of where she’s at right now,” Grimes said. “I’m excited about her potential, she’s met my expectations so far and it’s almost scary to see how good she’s going to get.”
Grimes also sees something in Ibe that is even more impressive than athletic titles and school records.
“The fact that she carries such a high GPA in all honors classes,” the coach said, “means that she’s proving to others that you can be a top student and still be a star on the track. She’s turning into a great role model, and that is just as big of a deal for me as her jumping.”