Track & Field: Ibukunoluwa Alfred made impact with Westerville South
Coming off a pair of disappointing finishes in the Division I state track and field meet last season, Ibukunoluwa Alfred was hoping to return to Ohio State this spring and atone for those performances.
With his senior season at Westerville South canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, he never got that chance.
Although he'll be continuing his track career at Miami University, Alfred wishes he and his teammates on the Wildcats had gotten one more opportunity to prove themselves.
"It ruined a lot of plans (and) hopes for the season, trying to get back to state and show everybody the hard work that we put in," Alfred said. "Everybody was working hard. Everybody was running great in the preseason. We were really hopeful for the season and we had a lot to show."
Last season at state, Alfred finished 12th in the 300-meter hurdles (39.14 seconds) and joined 2019 graduates Gideon Abimbola and Austin Fickeisen and classmate Aaron Powell on the 14th-place 800 relay (1:29.57).
Alfred and Powell were looking to lead the relay back to state.
"(Alfred's) impact on our program from the very first days of his freshman year he joined us has been monumental," coach Jimmy Gaul said. "Athletes like (Alfred) didn't just have their eyes set on running a faster time. Their ultimate goal for the season was to win a state title. That opportunity was never able to be realized."
Gaul added Alfred's best chance to win a state title likely was in the 300 hurdles.
Alfred holds the Wildcats' outdoor program record in the 300 hurdles (38.38) and is second in the 110 hurdles (14.99) to George-Sedgewick Patil (14.75).
Alfred owns the indoor program record in the 60 hurdles (8.13) and ran on the program-record indoor 800 relay (1:30.07).
He closed his prep career by finishing ninth in the 60 hurdles (8.46) in the Division I state indoor meet March 7 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva.
Another fond track memory for Alfred is being part of the program-record outdoor 400 relay (41.72), established in the regional meet in his freshman season. He was joined by 2018 graduates Jaelen Gill and Elton Sunnyway and Abimbola.
"I'll have a lot of great memories, starting freshman year with that (400 relay) with Jaelen Gill, (Abimbola) and Elton," Alfred said. "That might be my favorite memory because I really set the standard in how hard I should be working at school and in track and setting a foundation."
Gaul said the boys and girls teams both had high goals for this season.
"I feel bad for all our kids," he said. "From the freshmen who were excited to come out for their first season to our returners who were sophomores and juniors who are eager to take that next step in their progression, but especially for our seniors who have put so much of themselves into our program. I really hate to have them miss that one last go-round.
"This was (the seniors') team and there were big goals to be had. It's very heartbreaking that they never got the chance to pursue those for even one competition."
Alfred also played on the football team. A linebacker and tight end, he helped lead the Wildcats last fall to their first postseason appearance since 2012. They lost at Toledo St. John's 42-34 in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs to finish 6-5.
Alfred was named first-team all-district, first-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division and special mention all-state. He had 61 tackles and six sacks while playing in eight games.
"He was an incredible, important piece to the success we earned last year," football coach Matthew Christ said. "He possesses great athleticism and a nose for football. Above all else, he has a contagious positive attitude and plays the game with outstanding effort."
Alfred was recruited to compete in track and football. He is considering trying out for Miami's football team as a walk-on.