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Harvard’s Ronke Oyekunle back on track at Tufts University

Ronke Oyekunle.

Ronke Oyekunle.

Oyekunle hits marks, indoors and outside

Tufts University senior Ronke Oyekunle put together a month to remember for the school’s women’s track program.

Oyekunle, a Harvard resident who grew up in Nigeria, earned her first All-America honor early last month with an eighth-place finish in the shot put at the NCAA Division 3 indoor championships.

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Her toss of 45 feet 1 inch was the second best in program history. She also qualified for nationals in the 20-pound weight throw, finishing 12th overall with a mark of 55 feet 7 inches.

On Saturday, Oyekunle captured first place in the shot put, with a school record (43 feet 9.75 inches) toss, and recorded a personal best in the 8-pound hammer (156 feet 1 inch) when host Tufts opened its outdoor season by winning the Snowflake Classic.

“I want to go out with a bang, especially after not doing very well last year,’’ said Oyekunle, who, as a Tufts sophomore, qualified for the NCAA outdoor championships in the shot put, and was the New England Small College Athletic Conference and ECAC champion in the event.

“I studied in China first semester of last year and never got back to form. So I felt a lot of pressure to make my senior year my best year,’’ she said.

Tufts head coach Kristen Morwick said Oyekunle’s confidence and hard work go hand in hand.

“She’s motivated and dedicated — she worked hard to get back to nationals,’’ said Morwick. “Basically, time ran out on her last year as she was playing catch-up. She just missed qualifying for the NCAA outdoor meet, and that made her even more focused this season. Right now, she’s throwing the best of her career.’’

Morwick calls Oyekunle “an explosive athlete who can apply a lot of force to the shot put technique.

“Ronke and the rest of our throwers were a big part of our New England title this winter,’’ she said.

Oyekunle spent her youth in Nigeria because her parents wanted their four children to experience their native country’s culture.

“In Nigeria, I started school a year earlier than I would have in America, so I was a 16-year-old freshman at Tufts and not quite ready for the experience,’’ she recalled.

She had gone out for track her junior year at Phillips Exeter Academy, and was honored there by her coaches for throwing the shot more than 30 feet and the discus more than 100 feet.

“I took a year off and visited family and friends in Texas and to recharge myself for college. It’s taken a lot of hard work to make dean’s list and compete in track and it’s all been rewarding.’’

The Tufts roster also includes senior sprinter Alyssa Corrigan of Wellesley, who helped the 4 x 400 relay team post the second-fastest time in program history (3:55.03) en route to qualifying for indoor nationals.

Juniors Colleen Flanagan of Boxborough and Kristen Roberts of Marlborough, sophomore Caroline Kimball-Katz of Concord, and freshmen Mary Ellen Caruso of Belmont, Lily Corcoran of Needham, and Leah Potter of Sudbury round out the area contingent at Tufts.

Newton North’s Graf shines in Regis pool

Alex Graf, state champion in the 50-yard freestyle while swimming for Newton North High, had a standout sophomore season at Regis College in Weston.

Graf, who compiled a 4.0 grade point average for the fall semester, was a member of the 4 x 200-yard freestyle and medley relay teams that set Great Northeast Athletic Conference records at the league meet in December. At the same meet, Graf set a school record in the 200 individual medley and a conference mark in the 100 freestyle.

At the New England Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Championships in February, the former Bay State Conference all-star was on four relay teams that finished in the top four. Graf (inset) also broke school marks in the 100 freestyle and 50 butterfly.

A team captain who holds six individual school records, he also qualified for three events at last month’s Eastern College Athletic Conference meet.

“He’s an incredible competitor and a team leader,’’ said Regis head coach and aquatics director James Sweeney.

Games will benefit cancer reseach

Bentley’s women’s lacrosse and softball teams will host Coaches vs. Cancer games Saturday at noon in Waltham.

Cash donations will be accepted as well as used sports equipment in decent condition. The latter will be sold on consignment at My Town Sports in Littleton and online at www.mytownsports.com.

A collection box will be on the second floor of Bentley’s Dana Athletic Center, with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

The lacrosse team plays Southern Connecticut while the softball squad takes on American International in a double header.

For details, e-mail women’s lacrosse coach Carissa Medeiros at cmedeiros@bentley.edu, or softball coach Michele DeGregorio at mdegregorio@bentley.edu.

Here and there

Former Wellesley High School standout Nate Freiman was on Monday’s opening day roster for the Oakland A’s. The 26-year-old first baseman was claimed on waivers from Houston on March 26. The Duke graduate was added to Houston’s 40-man roster in early December via the Rule 5 draft after, spending his entire professional career in the San Diego Padres system. . . . Concord’s Jessica Castelline, a forward on the Gordon College women’s lacrosse team, made every shot count over a two-game span. Castelline, honored as the Commonwealth Coast Conference Rookie of the Week, scored four goals in as many tries in a 16-5 win over New England College, and was 6-for-6, including the game winner, when the Fighting Scots nipped Western New England, 14-13.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.
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