Bola Hambolu is the Daily Post’s field performer of the year. The Collins Hill junior won the state long jump title and was runner-up in the triple jump. (Staff Photo: Will Hammock)
Running always seemed natural for Bola Hambolu.
She was born in Washington, D.C., then moved to her parents’ native Nigeria for 10 years and enjoyed sprinting and relays during intramurals, which gave her an introduction to track and field.
“It wasn’t really a track team with meets, it was something we did for fun,” the Collins Hill standout said. “We didn’t really think we would be track stars when we got older.”
But Hambolu and her family moved back to the U.S. for her eighth grade year, settling into a Collins Hill district known as a power in track and field. She gave the sport a try as an Eagle freshman in a more official setting, following her older brother and parents, who were all runners.
“I’ve been running my whole life,” Hambolu said. “I just feel the need to run. Why walk? Just run. It’s that way with everything I do. When I did try out for ninth grade, (Collins Hill coach Richard) Ramsey’s said, ‘Who’s that?’ I never came out for workouts. It wasn’t something I had planned. It was just try this. If it’s just running, I do that my whole life. I might as well do it for fun.”
Hambolu soon learned she had a penchant for jumping, too. She took that to another level this season as a Collins Hill junior, earning Daily Post field performer of the year honors.
She won the Class AAAAAA state championship in the long jump at 17 feet, 9 inches and placed second in the triple jump at 39-0 1/2, following up a sophomore season that included a fourth-place finish in the triple jump at the state meet.
The triple jump is an event she never experienced in Nigeria, but picked it up quickly with her high school coaches.
“I had never heard of the triple jump,” Hambolu said. “It actually wasn’t heard to learn. Coach said I was doing triple jump this year at the start of my sophomore year. He said, ‘I’m just going to put you in (the triple jump), you’re not a freshman anymore.’ I tried it and he was amazed. He said, ‘You’re definitely going to do this event.’ Now I love the triple jump. I like it better than the long jump.”
Hambolu had her best leap in the triple jump at state meet and neared the school record of 39-7, but finished second. It was the only time at the season’s major meets she didn’t win the triple jump after victories at sectionals (38-3), Region 7-AAAAAA (37-9) and Gwinnett County (38-1).
She did win her first state championship in the long jump, adding to victories in that event at sectionals (17-11) and region (17-3). She was the county runner-up in the long jump (17-5 3/4).
“I was pleased with the season,” Hambolu said. “It started off kind of slow with the weather. We were off six days because of the snow. Track season was short. I did OK, better than last year. I couldn’t have imagined having a better season than last year but this one was definitely better because I improved my places at state and personal bests in both events. …
“I’m hoping to come in first in both events next time at state. That’s my goal.”
Hambolu also has her sight on hitting 18 feet in the long jump, as well as 40 feet in the triple jump. Her coach has confidence that she can make a good run at those distances.
“Bola is an amazing student and competitor,” Ramsey said. “She comes to school every day and works in the classroom and works on the track. She has matured a great deal in three years. This year’s state meet was a culmination of her hard work. … Bola is a wonderful teammate. She has a fantastic personality with an infectious laugh. She’s a pleasure to see on a daily basis.”
Now preparing for her senior year, Hambolu can think about something she never imagined as a young runner in Nigeria — college track and field.
Her talent in jumping will give her plenty of college options, but her 3.967 GPA will open up even more opportunities. She hopes to major in international relations and pre-law.
“(Track) is important to me now,” Hambolu said. “At the end of sophomore year, I took it more seriously. I guess when I started track at first, it was ‘Oh my gosh, I hate it. It’s so much work.’ I was trying to do it to keep myself busy. But after sophomore year, when I got to state, I thought I could actually be good at this. Then the (college) letters started coming in and I thought, ‘This is real. This is something I could definitely continue in college.’”