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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 3, 2010

Long jump mark for Okagbare

By Jim Vertuno
Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas When Blessing Okagbare took off and landed with a Texas Relays record in the women's long jump, she figured she had won and her day was done.

She was so confident no one would catch her that she left the jumping pit for a massage, then left the meet altogether, not bothering to watch her competitors finish.

It wasn't even close.

The Texas-El Paso senior smashed a 5-year-old meet record with a leap of 22 feet, 7 inches, winning yesterday's event with the longest jump in the world this year. She landed just an inch shy of her personal best and bronze-medal winning mark at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"Not bad. I was happy with it. I was expecting to do something like that," she said.

The previous Texas Relays record of 21-10 was set by Texas' Marshevet Hooker in 2005.

"I was telling her there's lots and lots of great athletes who have long jumped here at the Texas Relays," UTEP jumps coach Kebba Tolbert said. "To break the record here is something pretty special."

Okagbare was clearly in her own league yesterday. Brigham Young's Mindy McClurkin was a distant second with a leap of 21-1, 1/4.

Okagbare broke the meet record on her third jump. She took one more, then passed on her final two attempts. She left the meet and went to her hotel to rest because she's scheduled to run in the 100 meters and the 400 relay today.

Okagbare is a top sprinter. She won the 60 meters and the long jump at the NCAA indoor championships last month.

"Sometimes you don't have to do everything," Okagbare said of her decision to pass up her final two jumps when she might have set a personal best and pushed the meet record out even farther. "If I wasn't satisfied, I would have jumped again."

Okagbare said she likes the sprints, but her future is still in the long jump, where she plans to make a run at Olympic gold in London in 2012.

In 2008, Okagbare originally didn't qualify for the Olympic final. She made the field when Lyudmila Blonska of Ukraine was kicked out because she tested positive for a steroid. Given the chance, Okagbare took home a medal.

Consistency and staying healthy will be key to chasing gold in London. Okagbare finished eighth in the 2009 NCAA outdoor championships with a sore knee and did not jump at the 2009 World Championships after a hamstring injury in training, Tolbert said.

Okagbare has improved her nutrition and stretching over the last year to help her stay in peak form, Tolbert said.

"I'm just trying to be the best I can be," Okagbare said.

In other events yesterday, Reindell Cole of Cal-State Northridge won the men's long jump at 25-5 1/4, and Brittani Carter of LSU won the women's high jump after clearing 6-0 1/2.

Carter finished second in 2009 behind Texas' Destinee Hooker, last year's indoor and outdoor NCAA champion who left school earlier this year to pursue a professional volleyball career in South Korea.

Simone du Toit of SMU won the women's discus with a throw of 175-11.