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VSS’ Chibugo Obichere on the clock in basketball, track

The junior was the state champ in the indoor 55-meter hurdles last season and doubles up on the basketball team at Valley Stream South.

Valley Stream South's Chibugo Obichere takes first in

Valley Stream South's Chibugo Obichere takes first in the girls Division I 110-meter hurdles during the second day of the Nassau individual track championships/state qualifier at North Shore on Friday, June 2, 2017. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Chibugo Obichere will jump over any hurdle in sight. It doesn’t much matter if the hurdles are placed on the track or, more metaphorically, within her daily schedule. Regardless, Obichere will usually clear them with both speed and precision.

A year ago, Obichere’s indoor track prowess was an unknown entity. Now, it’s an undeniable fact. The Valley Stream South junior is the returning state public school 55-meter hurdles champion, running an 8.22 at the indoor state championships last March at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island. She finished third in the Federation and is the top returning finisher from that portion of the event.

What makes Obichere’s success so remarkable is her incredible ability to balance playing two sports in the same season. She is also a guard/forward on the school’s basketball team. Plenty of students around Long Island play two sports, even three, but to double up in the same season takes some serious skills, both in competition and with a calendar.

“The coaches plan out the schedules, so I’m never too overloaded,” Obichere said. “I usually go to track practice after school and then basketball practice after that. All the [basketball] games and [track] meets are on different days this year; they planned it out that way. Nothing interferes with one another. I just have to make sure I stay on top of homework and things like that because I don’t have that much time.”

Valley Stream South uses one gym for both the middle and high school basketball teams, Track coach Nicole Bertrami said. Bertrami and basketball coach Michael O’Brien work together to make sure that their practices and workouts don’t overlap in such a way that it would hamper Obichere’s development.

“[O’Brien] and I have a great working relationship,” Bertrami said. “We are both huge Chibugo fans, so we do the best we can to navigate . . . [Obichere] is great at time management. There are times she’ll have to come back to school [for practice] or go right from one practice to another and then do her homework . . . It does lend itself to more of a structure because we only have that one gym.”

Last year, Obichere played both sports as a sort of experiment. Could she excel at basketball while using indoor meets to train for the outdoor track season? What she didn’t count on was having a championship-caliber indoor track season. This, she said, changed the way she thought about her goals and how she stacks up against the rest of the state.

But even though she has reached the pinnacle of public school state supremacy and has a Federation title within reach, Obichere’s goals remain primarily time-centric. She said she wants to dip below the eight-second mark.

“My form is better [this year],” Obichere said. “We’ve been doing more drills that [focus on] trail legs and lead legs and getting over the hurdles quicker. Even when I see pictures of me going over the hurdles from last year, my form is all over the place. So now it’s getting better.”

Last season, Obichere won the Nassau Class B 55 hurdles championship in 8.41 seconds and took the event at the Nassau State qualifier in 8.33 seconds.

“Chibugo is a natural,” Bertrami said. “Her athletic ability just continues to increase. That mental commitment and dedication to the sport is the foundation.”

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