Mizuno's Keturah Orji on Triple Jump, Empowerment

A woman poses for a photo

Triple jumper Keturah Orji is a force to be reckoned with. The current Triple Jump American Record holder, five-time U.S Champion and eight-time NCAA Champion out of the University of Georgia has been on her grind toward her ultimate goal this year: Making the U.S team.

While the Mizuno athlete is a powerful triple jumper, she also spends time empowering others through her writing on her blog. Last year, she wrote a powerful series about embracing her natural hair, a journey that many Black men and women struggle with in a society that glorifies Euro-centric beauty standards.

We caught up with Orji to talk about her lofty goals and inspiring work off the track.

FF: How did you get started in Track and Field? What drew you to Triple Jump?

KO: Originally, I started out in gymnastics. I quit in 8th grade and went on to join the track team my freshman year of high school. When I was in elementary school I always used to race the boys for fun. I was always faster than them, so when I joined the team I thought I would do well as a sprinter!

My coach decided to put me in the jumps. I attempted Triple Jump for the first time my sophomore year and came close to breaking the school record. Ever since that moment I felt like there was a special connection between myself and the triple jump. It came naturally to me and over time it became my event.

Keturah Orji triple jumping at a competition.

FF: What is your training looking like going into Eugene? How is it different from your usual training schedule?

KO: Overall, I am trying to reduce my load so my body feels the best it can heading into the big event. I am still doing approaches and short jumps, but I am doing fewer repetitions and lighter weight in my training.

FF: What are your goals for the Trials?

KO: My biggest goal is to win the Trials. I won the Trials in 2016, so I have my mind set on taking another victory and making the team. I would love to jump over 14.60 meters. I haven’t jumped further than that consistently, so I’d love to make it happen at the Trials.

I also want to finish at least in the top 5 in the Long Jump. I’m long jumping for fun, so it would be great to finish top five and come out with a PR in that event.

Keturah Orji practices her triple jumping form in Atlanta, GA.

FF: How is your mental game changing as you prepare for high-stakes competition?

KO: Right now, I am only placing my focus on the Trials, there is no room for negative thoughts or doubt. I am not allowing myself to focus on anything that makes me feel less confident about my training. I’m determined to change my mindset to be more positive, believe in myself and trust in my training.

Something I like to do at this time is look back at my past accomplishments and remind myself of everything I’ve been able achieve. I’m in great shape and just need to execute on the day of Trials.

FF: How have you seen the focus on Field events change over the course of your career?

KO: When I first started Triple Jump, there wasn’t a huge fan base for my event, and not a lot of people knew about top American Triple Jump women.

I remember growing up looking to people like Allyson Felix, Brittney Reese and Will Claye, but didn’t really have an American female Triple Jumper to look up to. Now, I feel like there are young athletes that look up to Tori Franklin and I.

People come to the track to see our event more often, especially to see the intense competition between Tori & I since we trade American records. I think our combined success has drawn a lot of attention to our event as well. Hopefully more young girls will stick with the event and see that they can be successful in it too.

Keturah Orji runs with the Atlanta Track Club in Atlanta, GA.

FF: Could you talk about the inspiration behind your blog?

KO: My blog is really me just sharing my thoughts and sharing things I wish people had told me when I was younger. I have a student-athlete series talking through the recruiting process, dealing with coaches, nutrition, things that before I was a collegiate athlete, nobody really told me.

I did a natural hair series recently too. I feel like I went through a lot of ups and downs with my hair and just loving my natural hair. We live in a society where the beauty standard is European, which means straight, long hair is celebrated and thin noses and seeing that all the time made me desire those same physical traits for a long time.

But there’s beauty in yourself. You need exposure to different people and more people that look like you so you can find the beauty in yourself. The natural hair blog series aims to teach Black women and men how to care for their natural hair and not feel like they have to cover it up, straighten it or change it. Hopefully it helps people embrace who they naturally are.

Overall, my blog is just me sharing things I learned in hopes that people won’t have to go through the same things I went through and can know beforehand. And also so that people don’t feel alone in their situation– there’s always other people going through the same thing as you.

Speed Round Questions:

FF: Favorite Mizuno Shoe

KO: Wave Rider Waveknit

FF: What are you watching on Netflix?

KO: Money Heist

FF: Go-to post-run snack?

KO: Pizza, which is not a snack but I love it.

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