These KIPP Charter School Student-Athletes Are Sprinting Their Way To The National Junior Olympics

ByTom Wiedmann

A small track team with a lot of heart from KIPP Life Academy in Newark will see six of its student-athletes showcase their talents on the big stage at this year’s National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships in California.

The sporting event, which is being held this week in Sacramento, features KIPP students Donnell Redding, Nazeeha Adome, Elyanna Yeboah, Chyla Smith, Jada Finley and Zahara Escourse. The Newark athletes, all first-year runners, hail from a school that had no proper training facility in place for track and field, using the hallways and outdoor spaces to practice. Within a year, 10 KIPP student-athletes paced their way to the state championships, with six runners moving on to a successful performance at the regional Junior Olympics.

Now, all six runners, dubbed as “The Super Six” among their teammates, are going up against the top competition in the country at the national showcase.

“It feels surreal, almost like a Disney movie sometimes,” said Rilwan Adeniran, who coaches the track and field team at KIPP Life Academy. “For all first-year runners to go to states, regionals and then nationals, it speaks volumes about what they can accomplish every day with the right person pushing them and the right people believing in them.”

What makes the team’s feat even more impressive is that starting out the 2021-22 school year, KIPP Life Academy had no prior track and field program in place to work from. Adeniran, who also teaches math at KIPP, said he was inspired by his own personal experiences from running track as a high school student-athlete to form a program for the Newark charter school.

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