In order to take a major step forward, Efe Omokeni needed to take a few steps back — literally. The Freeport long jumper, in a move designed to garner more speed on the runway, has started her sprint 15 steps away from the board this season, two paces deeper than usual.
“My steps used to be closer to the runway, but I moved it farther back so I would gain enough speed to jump higher,” she said. “. . . It wasn’t that hard. I got used to it pretty quickly, because the faster I went, the quicker I could see the board. I wasn’t really reaching for it. I was perfectly on the board.”
So far, the results have been grand. Omokeni flew 17 feet, 11 ¾ inches to win the long jump on the second and final day of the Hispanic Games at the Armory in Manhattan Saturday afternoon.
“I thought my steps were really good today,” she said. “The speed coming down the runway was really good, so it really helped me go farther . . . I felt lighter and my legs were looser.”
Omokeni said her goal is to hit 19 feet by the end of the season. She jumped 18-5 at the Marine Corps Holiday Classic on Dec. 28.
Omokeni, together with her younger sister Eneryo, Lizbeth Marine and Alexandria Yarbrough, placed second in the 4x400-meter relay in 4:01.6 Bishop Loughlin of Brooklyn won in 3:58.96.
Earlier in the afternoon, Yarbrough placed third in the invitational 400 in 57.53 seconds. Isabella Whittaker of Maryland Mount De Sales won in 54.84. Yarbrough, a senior, intends to run the 400 with a more strategic bent this season. She knows she’s fast and she knows how to run a smart race. Now, she just has to put it all together.
“When I was younger, I had confidence issues and I just thought, ‘Run as fast as you can,’ “ Yarbrough said. “There was no strategy when I was younger. Now that I’m older, I realize that I have confidence in myself. You can’t really go out and just run as fast as you can, because you’re not going to end up with a good time. I just have to have strategies for that.”
Yarbrough said she wants to run on the low end of 54 seconds by the end of the indoor season and get in the 53s by spring.
“I’m just trying to find that happy medium where I can run fast, but not be so tired where it affects me at the end,” she said.
Elsewhere, Huntington’s 4x200 relay team, composed of Alicia Brooks, Analisse Batista, Hope Bilkey, and Olivia Conte, placed second in 1:42.35. Brooklyn’s Paul Robeson won in 1:40.24.