Athlete Spotlight – Jean Jin ’22 & Koko Akpan ’23 – Girls Varsity Track & Field

Girls Varsity Track & Field – Jean Jin ’22 and Koko Akpan ’23

Interviewed and written by Gale Gai ’22         

Jean Jin ’22

GG: What events do you do?
JJ: Well, I am a part of the DATF distance crew. So, I run in the 800, 1500, 3k, and sometimes the 4×4 relay, but not all of them in the same meet.

GG: What’s your story with sports?
JJ: I started running in seventh grade, in middle school. I thought I was really slow up until sophomore year. I still don’t think I’m that fast, but I run because of the team. I also do cross country in the fall, so I spend a lot of time with this good group of girls.

GG: How do you keep pushing yourself?          
JJ: Not everyone is going to be 110% every day. You push yourself because even if you’re not going to get a win in a meet, you might get a personal best. We’re always competing against ourselves and not necessarily the other team, so it is always worth it to push your boundaries and run a better time. Your best competition is yourself.

GG: What is special about the Deerfield track & field team this year?
JJ: I think what is special about my team is that no matter what happens during the day, no matter how stressful our classes get, at 3:45 every day, everyone comes together and you get to put your stresses aside. At least for me, I live in the moment for an hour and a half every day. Everyone comes in and does their best and contributes positive energy.

GG: What is the most valuable thing about track & field for you?
JJ: I think running is worth it. I run at the end of the day, I run because it is hard, and you feel good about yourself after you’re done. Sometimes, when you’re not feeling yourself, you run for the people in front of you and behind you. At Deerfield, it can be very individual-oriented, so it is nice to feel collective and a part of a group when I’m running.

Koko Akpan ’23

GG: What are your events?
KA: I ran track in middle school, and I was primarily a sprinter. I did the 100, 200, 4×100, and 4×200. This year, I decided to try the long jump, and I also tried hurdles for the first time. At a meet, I ran the 300 hurdles for the first time, which was quite the experience. It was exhausting but worth it to try out.

GG: What’s your story with sports?
KA: Up until middle school, I would say that I wasn’t the most athletic person. I didn’t really enjoy the gyms classes, and I didn’t do any extracurricular activities sports-wise. Once middle school began, people starting telling me that I was fast. When you’re younger, being fast was a good thing because it is something people cared about and competed about. I had a friend who ran track, and she was a couple of years older than me. She told me to try track in 6th grade, and I decided to start doing it. Since then, track was something that I felt like I could do without having a lot of equipment, and it was something that I knew I wanted to continue to do. And for other sports, I played basketball for a little bit, and I tried volleyball for the first time when I came to Deerfield. Freshman year I was in thirds, and this year I made JV.

GG: How do you get yourself ready on race day?
KA: I would go to bed really early. Even if it is a Friday night, I’m usually in bed by eleven o’clock, ready for the track meet. I also like to set out my uniforms the night before. On the day of the meet, I like to eat breakfast. On a normal school day, I usually try and eat something in my room in the morning, but on the day of a meet, I like to go to the dining hall, sit down, and eat. At the track meet itself, we have a warm-up that we always do. At the meet, my adrenaline would be super high, and I am very anxious and nervous, but I’m also very excited just to see how far I can push myself.

GG: What is one moment with this team so far that you loved?
KA: Typically, the last event of a track meet is a 4×400, and each person runs 400 meters around the track. Everyone knows this is one of the hardest events because it not a jog nor a full sprint, and you’re still trying to go as fast as you can. The way that the team comes together to support the runners for the last event and sometimes run with the runners is great to see. We’re all supporting each other because we know what it is like to be on the track.

GG: What is the most valuable thing about track & field for you?
KA: Before I started running track, I thought it was more of an individual sport, where you are running by yourself against other people. But now I think track is so much more than that. With the short term that we have, we were able to build relationships with people. Also, you can relate to your teammates more than you would to anyone else because we all know how is like to be pushing yourself on the track. Overall, with track, no matter how you do, someone will always be there to tell you that you did well, and this is something that I really appreciate about track.

Go Big Green!