Competing in her first Junior Olympics in July, Wurrie won the long jump (19-1), placed second in the 100 (11.66) and third in the 200 (23.87) – all personal bests.
Wurrie Njadoe knew nothing about starting blocks or finish lines.
But settling in for her first 100-meter dash, she somehow knew she was right where she was supposed to be.
“All the kids were nervous, but I was just excited,” Njadoe said, recalling that day as a seventh grader at Shorecrest’s Kellogg Middle School.
Five other athletes to watch
Chinne Okoronkwo, Mountlake Terrace – Talk about a triple threat…Okoronkwo swept three 3A state titles as a junior last year, winning the pole vault, long jump and triple jump.
Jordyn Edwards, Lynnwood – Basketball is her first love, but Edwards uses her jets on the track as well. She is the defending 3A state champ in the 400 and was part of the Royals’ first-place 1,600 relay team.
Ariell Garnett, Kennedy Catholic – Garnett won both the 100 and 200 at the 3A state meet as a junior last year and was also sixth in the 400.
Jordan Oakes, Holy Names – Oakes proved she’s a distance dandy last year as she swept 3A state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 as a sophomore.
Lauryn Ford, Kentridge – Just a freshman, Ford is off to an impressive start with a state-leading 23.88 in the 200. She ranks third in the long jump (18.45) and second in the 100 (12.19) as well.
Five teams to watch
Issaquah – With the majority of athletes back from last year, the Eagles aim to soar to a second straight 4A state championship. Among those leading the way is junior Nikki Stephens, who placed second in the 400 last season and was part of the winning 1,600 relay squad.
Shorecrest – Wurrie Njadoe gives the Scots a sensational shot at winning the 2A title again. Her four individual crowns last May proved pivotal as they out-pointed Sehome.
Tahoma – The Bears just missed a top-four 4A trophy last spring with 40 points, one behind No. 4 Union of Vancouver (and just eight off the second-place total put together by Lewis & Clark of Spokane. Junior Ginny Mehl is the defending shot put champ.
Holy Names – If anyone can overtake Kamiakin of Kennewick, it just might be the Cougars, who placed a distant second at last year’s 3A state meet (92-71). Jordan Oakes returns as the defending champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 and fellow junior Erin Ripple has a chance to repeat in the 800.
Lynnwood – Sure, Mikayla Pivec and Jordyn Edwards are known more as stars in basketball, but they are talented track and field athletes, too, and helped the Royals earn the third-place 3A trophy last spring. Junior Malia Pivec, Mikayla’s sister, is a point-getter, too.
And the young girl who had left Gambia at age 9 finally felt like she was home again.
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Njadoe’s father, Musa, had big dreams for his four children and came to the United States when Wurrie was just 4 – the others 8, 6 and 2. She had developed early, walking by 10 months, according to her father, and used her speed to her advantage at an early age – especially when she got in trouble.
“Our uncle would chase her down the street, but he could never catch her,” older sister, Yasira, said with a laugh.
Musa lived in the Bronx and sent for the children in 2006, but wasn’t happy with the environment.
“Kids were mean to people who weren’t from there and they got in a lot of trouble,” Yasira said. “That wasn’t what our dad wanted for us.”
He had a friend who encouraged him to bring the family to Shoreline, and they moved three years later.
“It was the best decision our dad could have ever made for us,” said Wurrie, whose name means “to be alive” in her native Fula language.
Musa, once a politician in Gambia, continues to work two to three jobs as a caregiver to provide for the family.
“He’s my inspiration,” Wurrie said.
All of the children have worked hard to make both parents proud in all of their endeavors, although Wurrie has not seen her mother since leaving Gambia — her parents are divorced.
“It’s been hard growing up without her, but my sister was always there to step up in that role,” Wurrie said, noting she sometimes is able to speak with her mom by phone and that she hopes to someday return.
Track and field ultimately gave Wurrie a way to pay for her college education as she’s accepted a full scholarship from Kansas State University following her breakout 2015 season.
She had previously divided her efforts between track and basketball, another sport she excels at, but focused more on track her junior year — and it showed.
“She was always one of our top athletes since she set foot on the track,” Shorecrest coach Brandon Christensen said. “But her maturity and drive really kicked in last April. She had a fire to want to go out and be the best, and she trained like it.”
The devotion paid dividends. Wurrie won all four of her events at the Class 2A state meet in May with marks impressive at any level – 12.06 in the 100, 25.00 in the 200, 18-9 in the long jump and 5-5 in the high jump — leading the Scots to the team title as well.
And that was just the beginning. Competing in her first Junior Olympics in July, Wurrie won the long jump (19-1), placed second in the 100 (11.66) and third in the 200 (23.87) – all personal bests.
This spring, Wurrie said she plans to take aim at state records. Ultimately, her goals include competing in the Olympic Games. Yasira advises not to bet against her.
“I see it happening – whatever she sets her mind to,” she said.