By Leah Burchill, U SPORTS Cross Country/Track & Field Correspondent
Student-athletes across the country and across the world are known to be busy, dedicated, and hardworking, reserving almost all of their schedule to their schooling and their sport. Imagine adding two more responsibilities onto the title of being a student-athlete.
How does student-athlete-mother-employee sound?
For 31 year-old Christy Ihunaegbo, a third-year track and field athlete at York University, this is reality. Throughout the year Ihunaegbo finds herself balancing being a mother, a full-time fourth year student studying kinesiology and health sciences, a 400-metre runner for the York Lions, while also holding down a job to support her family.
“Christy is definitely motivating to many of the female athletes on our team, as it helps put challenges they may have in their lives into perspective,” says York head coach Colin Inglis. “Christy is always open to sharing experiences with the athletes on the team and to help mentor them in their athletic development.”
Ihunaegbo is not your average track and field athlete either. Growing up in Nigeria, Ihuaegbo has represented her country in many international track and field competitions, both in individual and relay events, including the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics where she ran a leg on the women’s 4x100-metre relay team. She also competed at the 2007 All-African Games in Algeria.
When Ihunaegbo first started her studies at York, she did not join the track and field team initially after giving birth to her child. Instead, she held off competing for the Lions until her second year of post-secondary studies.
In her first year running with York, Ihunaegbo sprinted her way to a second-place finish in the 300 metres at the 2015 CIS Track and Field Championships with an impressive time of 39.31 seconds. Just last year, at the OUA Track and Field Championships, the Lions runner took part in 4x400-metre relay, crossing the finish line in sixth place in 3:59.42.
A typical week for Ihunaegbo would not be successful without planning out her weekly schedule. Her day starts with track practice in the morning, class at 2:30 p.m., followed by picking up her children, and ending her night with going to work. Just like a 400-metre race with four uniquely challenging phases, Ihunaegbo has four uniquely challenging yet rewarding phases in her day.
Ihunaegbo claims the keys to her success are time management, dedication, and most of all, hard work.
“If you say you can’t, then your mind isn't there,” says Ihunaegbo. “Track keeps me motivated. (With track), all my stress is gone”.
Being 31 years old, Ihuaegbo has experienced more than most student-athletes who can be as young as 18. Growing up in Nigeria in a different society, Ihunaegbo has learned to work extremely hard and dedicate all of her heart to accomplish her goals. Her work ethic is something she believes would have been different had she grown up in Canada instead.
The Lions veteran often finds herself motivating her fellow teammates who feel frustrated with the stresses of being a student-athlete. Her life experiences with the sport has taught her that anybody can reach their dreams.
Along with her love and passion for her sport, her love for her children and ties to her faith and upbringing keep her motivated and grateful for the opportunities and successes she has experienced on and off the track.