17-year-old sophomore fits right in

BY KATRINA DO | APRIL 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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The life of a Division-I student-athlete can be a hectic one. With track, schoolwork, and volunteering, the lifestyle has forced sophomore Tayo Oladele-Ajose to set a schedule for everything, including breakfast—quite a full plate for a 17-year-old.

Oladele-Ajose skipped her junior year of high school, joining Iowa’s track program at age 15. Needless to say, she has always been the youngest of her grade, and she is still younger than the freshmen on the team.

While the age gap may seem surprising, she actually fits right in.

“I’m not really left out of anything — besides I couldn’t sign a lease without my mom,” she said.
Involvement in track has helped her with her early transition into college, allowing her to meet new people and become a better student by forcing her to manage time wisely.

She’s also shown leadership on the team; Oladele-Ajose organized and led the Hawkeyes in a community-service project, collecting donations to make fleece blankets for the homeless.

“I don’t think [her age] really affects her that much,” assistant coach Molly Roberts said. “She might be a little immature athletically — she would’ve had two more years to be a better athlete — even though she is still good. For the most part, she’s definitely part of the team.”

Oladele-Ajose was the state champion in the high jump as a senior. She was able to come to Iowa at 15 through a special program offered by the Blank Honors Center.

Freshman Madison Rouw is impressed with her teammate’s ability to handle the stress that comes with being a student-athlete, especially at such a young age. Her playful attitude helps with those time-management skills.

“Tayo has a goofy side,” Rouw said. “She adds a good dynamic to the team.”

As a native of Mediapolis, Oladele-Ajose knew she would become a Hawkeye; because the track and field program does not recruit high-school juniors, and she was still viewed as a junior during her senior year, she reached out to Iowa.

“The track team didn’t realize they could recruit me since they can’t recruit juniors,” Oladele-Ajose said. “So I had to call them.”

Starting college at age 15 was an “emotional roller coaster” for her. She has learned to juggle her activities along with the heavy workload that comes with a biomedical engineering major. She often finds herself hiding out in the Seamans Center hours after its doors are locked.

While Oladele-Ajose knew she would compete in the high jump at the college level, she never planned on leaving high school so soon. However, the sophomore views her early transition as a blessing.

“I can’t take credit for anything I’ve done,” Oladele-Ajose said. “God always pushes me to these different places, and that definitely contributes to everything.”

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