The summer Olympics in Brazil are coming up and the University of Texas at Austin track star Courtney Okolo is focused on earning a spot on the USA Olympic team. Her chances seem bright – she recently became the first ever female athlete to run the 400 meters in under 50 seconds at a collegiate meet.
Okolo stopped by the Standard to chat about her Olympic prospects. A Carrollton native, Okolo graduates from UT this weekend and finished first in the Big 12 track & field meet earlier this month, along with the high-scoring women’s team. Both the men’s and women’s Longhorns became Big 12 champs for the second year in a row, a first in league history.
Okolo broke NCAA records in one of her events, the 400 meters, earlier this year. Her time of 49.71 seconds is a new collegiate record.
“I came really close my sophomore year (to breaking 50 seconds) but my sophomore year, it wasn’t a goal,” she says, “it just kind of happened.”
Okolo said after ups and downs her junior year of college, she strove to break 50 seconds before graduation. Back during her freshman year of high school, Okolo went out for track and wanted to do the 100 meters, but she says she’s wasn’t all that good at it. She tried the 400 but had a love-hate relationship with it.
“I had to realize, (the 400)’s not the easiest event but you could be good at it,” she says. “I think about my junior year of high school is when I started to really progress. I was like, you know, I think I like this, I think I could get good at this.”
Okolo, who admired Carmelita Jeter in the 100 during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, realized that if she centered her life around track, she could compete at a professional level. A dream to be in the Olympics then became her goal.
“Sometimes when we have dreams, we just think of them as dreams,” she says. “If you plan out a map to achieve those dreams, they’re not just something that’s far away. They can come in your reach. I really don’t like to say dreams anymore – they’re more goals. Because goals sound more achievable. If you just focus on achieving those goals and center your everyday life around achieving those goals, it’s definitely possible.”
Post prepared by Hannah McBride.