Texas Tech’s standout track and field program recently competed in its first event at the Corky Classic in Lubbock. Through a flurry of first-place finishes, a few competitors emerged atop the others.
At the head of the pack stood junior jumper for Tech, Ruth Usoro, who shattered the Nigerian record and jumped the second-longest triple jump in NCAA history (46’-10.25”)(14.28m).
But for Usoro, despite jumping further than any other woman in NCAA history has in one day, she continued to look past her successes.
“I know there is more I have to achieve, so I don't want this particular one to stop me from achieving more,” Usoro said.
Despite the humble nature of the Nigerian native, her accolades are among the top of active track and field athletes for Tech.
In her first year as a Red Raider in 2019, Usoro was a two-time Big 12 champion in both indoor triple jump and indoor long jump, according to Tech Athletics, she was a USTFCCCA All-American for both events as well.
But prior to becoming a Power 5 athlete, Usoro was across the way at the West Texas-based community college of South Plains.
As a South Plains Texan, Usoro was even more of a Swiss Army knife, competing in sprint competitions as well. In fact, at the NJCAA D1 Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she won second place overall in the 200, fourth in the 100 and first and second in long and triple jump, respectively.
Her performances piqued the interest of one of the top track and field recruiters in the country, Tech track and field jumping coach James Thomas.
“We could always see it,” Thomas said. “She stuck to her guns and has been a Red Raider since she even stepped on South Plains’ campus.”
Her pathway was jump started by Nigerian track and field coach Uremu Adu, who died in May of 2020. Uremu was familiar with Thomas and Tech’s program, having produced numerous American record holders that came from his home country of Africa, according to a release from All Africa.
“His death shook Ruth’s world, he was a guiding strength in a lot of things Ruth does,” Thomas said.
Prior to Adu’s passing, though, he had a plan for Usoro.
“He was, from the jump, saying that he wanted Ruth to train and come with me at Texas Tech. ‘This is where I want her to be and this is where God tells me she needs to be,” James said about Adu.
And her journey began as a Red Raider.
But as much of an individual talent as Usoro is, she serves as the glue within the program.
"Our jumps group has rated Ruth the undisputed best teammate on the planet," said Thomas.
“All of my teammates are amazing.” said Usoro “I don’t know if it’s a family thing, I don’t know if it's a Nigerian thing, but it just pays to be kind … Kindness is needed in the world.”
Even during the meets, despite being a relatively quiet person, according to Usoro, her energy flows through whatever arena the Red Raiders are competing in.
“When it comes to a track meet, the building can be pins and needles quiet, but you’ll hear Ruth say, ‘Let’s go!’ and start this huge clap that gets everybody going. But the same thing can happen at a practice. Ruth’s energy is very consistent," Thomas said. “She’s filled with sheer excitement. If someone has a breakthrough technically. No matter how far they are, when she sees it, she’s ready to go hug them.”
What makes Usoro so complete, though, is her traits behind the scenes. Although she is riddled with natural talent, her coachability and listening skills are taking her to new lengths.
“She came to us as a skinny twig, not very strong, and I know her first semester here we wore her out," Thomas said. “But she’s worked hard to get where she is … You tell her something, her eyes are laser focused. She’s not going to question you, she’ll just do it.”
The centerpiece of the relationship is trust, and Usoro trusts her coaches, she said.
Between her jumping coach, Thomas, and head track and field coach Wes Kittley, there are over 60 years of combined experience at the very highest levels, and Usoro understands that.
“I’ve only been in track and field for about 12 to 13 years … Coach Kittley said he’s been in the game for 30 something years. He just knows so much about it,” Usoro said. “They know what’s best for me.”
But when you couple the experience with work ethic, you get Usoro, who is extremely dedicated. In fact, Usoro stayed in Lubbock for Christmas and the holidays to work on her triple jump, said Kittley.
The relationship between Usoro, her teammates and coaches reflects who she is as a person and as a student-athlete, but on the track, despite breaking numerous records, there is chatter that she has yet to reach her potential.
“I know I had more on the inside of me … This is not the end of it.” said Usoro.
Thomas and her teammates also realize Usoro’s potential; after breaking the Nigerian jumping record, they believe Usoro has more left in the tank.
“You can ask any one of her teammates, ‘She can go further than that’, and I agree, she can definitely go further than that,” Thomas said. “I think she has the opportunity to be an Olympian, to be a national champion, I think she has an opportunity to be one of the best to ever do the event … She’s just going to need to handle all of the external factors.”
The career of Usoro is just beginning, and as much of a chance as she has to make an impact in athletics, she wants to strive to make changes off the track as well.
“We are more than athletes, we are also an intelligent group of people,” Usoro said. “We can go outside of sports to do more because we are made of more.”
Usoro has decided to use her platform and voice to spread her thoughts on a podcast titled ‘Abba’s Word’, which she uses to spread not only her message, but Christianity.
The podcast has six episodes so far, with Usoro aiming to release the seventh on Saturday.
“I have a Christian podcast where I talk about God on the podcast every other Saturday," Usoro said.
Her podcast can be reached on most streaming platforms: Spotify, Apple Podcast, Anchor and Overcast.
Usoro is looking to make a difference in the world both on and off the track; as an athlete, and an individual. In just her second year at Tech, Usoro is doing just that.