Texas Tech finds a new gem in High Jumper Temitope Adeshina, but she has had to scale heights more difficult than her recent exploits.
If you are not new to Track and Field, you must have seen the viral video of Texas Tech assistant coach Keith Herston alongside some of his athletes mobbing Nigeria’s Temitope Adeshina after she scaled 1.96m at the Cocky Classic in Texas. It was only her second meet since she moved to the US to start her collegiate career.
It was unbridled joy on the faces of everyone who witnessed this moment from Adeshina. A few might have been surprised about the moment, but for those who knew Adeshina back home, all she needed or even asked for was to be given the opportunity at a stage like this.
At this stage, Adeshina had practiced mentally how she was going to scale this height. The 25-year-old freshman cleared 1.96m to break the school record of two-time NCAA champion Zarriea Willis and tying the facility record set four years ago by 13-time U.S. champion Vashti Cunningham.
It was a surreal moment for Adeshina, who only six months ago had people question her 1.94m jump at the Lagos series meet, which took place at the Yaba Sports Complex. Regardless, her jump was enough to see her Doreen Amata’s Indoor High Jump record of 1.93m.
In 2016, at the age of 17, Temitope embarked on her high jump journey in the Badagry area of Lagos State. However, her path faced a significant disruption when her parents separated, leading to financial challenges. With her father withdrawing support and prohibiting her from participating in sports, Temitope took a hiatus of over a year. This absence was a crucial factor in her being unable to participate in the 2017 Commonwealth Games Camping (CWG) in preparation for the Gold Coast Games in Australia in 2018, causing her to miss the Games entirely.
Subsequently, she was sent to her aunt to learn tailoring, diverting from her athletic pursuits. Coach Kola Adebayo, who had been guiding her training on the side, intervened and requested her release from her father. The approval came just as the CWG camping resumed in late 2017 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Following the camp, Temitope moved in with her coach’s family in the Ikorodu area of Lagos and later with her father in Ajegunle to alleviate transportation costs.
With consistent training, Temitope’s fortunes turned around, culminating in a 1.70m personal best and a commendable third-place finish at the National Sports Festival in Abuja at the end of the year. This period marked a significant comeback for Adeshina, overcoming challenges and showcasing her dedication to high jump excellence.
Consistency and Competing for Nigeria
In 2019, Adeshina competed in only three competitions, finishing second in all of them as she reached a new PB of 1.80m. Her confidence skyrocketed in 2021 when she matched her PB at the 20th National Sports Festival in Benin and at the Nigerian Olympic Trials in Yaba, Lagos.
2022 was the year Adeshina represented Nigeria for the first time. Her first stop was the African Games in Mauritius. Despite arriving on the day of her event, she went straight into action, eventually clinching Silver with a clearance of 1.79m.
Adeshina followed it up with another fine performance at the National Championships as she soared to a New PB of 1.88m to win the National title. A month later, the lanky jumper was part of the Nigerian Contingent to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK, in which she reached the final and placed 10th overall in the rankings.
Journey to the United States
After the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the original plan for high jumper Adeshina was to enroll her in the National Open University in Nigeria. However, her father expressed a desire for her to study abroad, inspired by her contemporary Esther Isa, who competed for Middle Tennessee State University. The bond between Esther and Temitope was strong, and they often spent time together when Esther was in the country. In 2020, Esther successfully moved to the United States.
Coach Kola Adebayo, recognizing Temitope’s talent, pledged to explore opportunities for her even though she was already 25 years old. Considering that adding four years of schooling would make her 29 upon graduation, her coach’s strategy was to have her compete in Europe, leveraging his knowledge of her capabilities. Although many school coaches in the U.S. expressed interest in her, the coach’s primary goal was to guide her toward a professional career.
The journey to the United States began when Doreen Amata contacted Adeshina’s coach, expressing interest in having her study at Georgia Tech. Unfortunately, her academic record didn’t meet the requirements for admission. This was the same school proposed for Esther, and her grades also fell short of the criteria. Despite these setbacks, the coach remained determined to find a path for Temitope in the U.S., leveraging his connections and exploring various opportunities.
Eventually, she settled with Texas Tech, a school that has a storied history of accommodating Nigerian student-athletes, with Rosemary Chukwuma recently being a part of their recruitment.
Although Coach Herston expressed his initial surprise at Adeshina’s eligibility, mentioning, “I said, ‘I’m just going to reach out to her anyway and see if she’s interested in Texas Tech.’ Never thought she would be eligible. Sure enough, she’s not only eligible, but she’s got four years of eligibility left. Lord willing, we’ll be able to keep improving the way we have this year already.”