Kenyan althetics sensation, and Nashua High School North senior, Ivy Muchuma, makes a triple jump at the New England Track and Field Championships held last spring in Nashua, NH
By GARY FITZ Staff Writer, Nashua Telegraph
As a child in Kenya, Nashua High School North senior Ivy Muchuma remembers playing a game called “three sticks.’’ The sticks were placed at varying distances and the winner was the one who could jump the furthest in three consecutive jumps.
Fast forward eight years to last spring when Muchuma, who moved to the United States when she was 9, finished second in the triple jump at the New England Track and Field Championships.
Muchuma has fond memories of her childhood in Kenya and hopes to return someday to visit her extended family. But she’d also like to return with the kind of skills – she’s likely to major in environmental engineering in college – to really make a difference.
Fluent in English when she arrived in the United States, thanks to attending a demanding British private school in Kenya, Muchuma still speaks Swahili at home. According to North girls soccer coach Russ Cardin, she also speaks French.
Her athletic gifts are obvious. She began playing volleyball at Elm Street Junior High School and developed into a great high school player. But it’s on the track that the full depth of her athletic prowess is on display.
She’s the rare combination of an athlete with the speed and jumping ability to be a top triple and long jumper, who is also strong enough to be a potential state champion in the shot put and javelin.
College track coaches drool over her potential. But ask Muchuma about her future and athletics plays a small role.
“I wanted to be a photographer or something artsy,’’ Muchuma said. “My dad just told me I could do that or do something I’m really good at, and I’m really good in math.”
Throughout this summer, Muchuma was still trying to decide between the five schools she’s been accepted to as an engineering major, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Drexell University, Hartford University, the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the University of New Hampshire.
After careful consideration, she finally picked the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she is due to start on August 24, 2010.
Ivy Muchuma is now airborne during triple jump play.
Cardin said the track coaches at all five schools are very interested in adding Muchuma to their roster. But Muchuma has made it clear. Her number one focus in college will be academics.
She knows she’s fortunate to have the advantages she’s been given and is determined to take advantage of them.
“In Kenya, our perception of the United States was money grew on trees and the streets were paved with gold,’’ Muchuma said. “Then when you get here, you realize it’s just like any other place, but there are tremendous opportunities.’’
Academically, Muchuma’s transition in the classroom didn’t prove to be her biggest challenge.
“In Kenya the schools used the British standard, which is much harder than here,’’ Muchuma said. “And at the school I attended we were only permitted to speak English.’’
Muchuma knows Kenyans are best known, athletically, for producing many of the world’s best distance runners. But most come from the mountainous region near the city Eldoret.
Muchuma was singled out early on the playgrounds for her speed and powerful legs.
“The shot put, you’d think, is about upper body strength,’’ Muchuma said, “but it’s not, it’s really the lower legs. If you have strong legs you can get it out there pretty far.”
Cardin said Muchuma has the speed and strength to do many other events. She finished seventh last year in the state heptathlon and should finish in the top five this year, especially with a little extra work in the high jump.
But because track athletes are limited to just four events per meet, Muchuma has narrowed it down to the limit and could place high in all four at the Class L championships.
“I could see her score as many as 30 points, all by herself,’’ Cardin said. “That’s pretty rare for anyone, especially in four individual events.’’
Last spring Muchuma took second in both the javelin and shot put and sixth in the triple jump. She went on to place second in the triple jump at both the Meet of Champions and New England meet.
In February at the Class L Indoor Championships, she won the shot put and was fourth in the long jump.
On and off the track, nine years after emigrating from Kenya, Muchuma’s potential seems limitless.
This article was published in the Nashua Telegraph on Sunday, April 25, 2010
Hop, step and jump- Ivy Muchuma goes for the win as amazed onlookers watch