After visiting Nigeria, Montclair Kimberley’s track star getting ready to head to Yale
Coming off one of the top performances in NJSIAA track history this spring, Isiah Udofia, who just graduated from Montclair Kimberley Academy, is getting ready to head to Yale University after visiting his father Nkere's homeland.
Udofia, an all-state athlete, spent a good portion of July in Nigeria helping out his father's friend, who runs a medical outreach program in his father’s village, Uruk Uso, about 280 miles south of the Nigerian capital of Abuja. The outreach program gives free health care to people who cannot afford it.
"The biggest thing I have taken away from this trip is how different life is for people not too different than me here, and how lucky I am that my Dad was able to escape during the war and grow up with so many more opportunities in America," Udofia said, referring to his father’s arrival in the U.S. in 1968 during the Nigerian Civil War.
"Being able to experience what he experienced as a child firsthand gives a newfound appreciation for all the blessings I have in my life."
Udofia gets a good part of his track skills through his father, who was an all-state long jumper in Nebraska and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He was named to the all-state second team in the long jump and was one of seven boys in the history of the NJSIAA state track and field group to win four events at one meet. Udofia won the long jump (23-feet-4.25-inches), triple jump (45-feet-6.25), 100 meters (10.77) and 200 meters (21.84) at the Non Public B meet on June 10 and 11 in Middletown.
The four marks were personal bests and school records.
During his time at MKA he also set the school mark in the 400 meters (50.28) and was part of the 400- and 800-meter relay teams that set school records.
"My performance in my senior year felt like a culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifices I made, especially in the 2021 and 2022 seasons, and that are what made the accomplishments even more special," he said.
The Non Public B meet was the highlight of his senior season and of his career for MKA. It was also his favorite meet in his junior year, when he won the 100, 200 and triple jump.
"Overall groups was my favorite meet in my high school career for this season as in my junior year. I think it gave me real confidence that I had potential to run at the next level," he said.
Udofia caught the eye of Yale track and field head coach George Evans last year.
"We saw him on film at the end of his junior year, and we thought he had some very real potential with some more physical maturation," Evans said. "We really like his athleticism, being a standout in multiple sports."
The clincher was Evans’ interview with Udofia. "When you speak to him, it is evident he is passionate about what he does, on the track and in the classroom," the coach said. "After he visited campus last summer with his family, I remember calling the director of track and field at Yale, telling him Isiah is a student-athlete we need to have here. He is going to be a great performer and an outstanding teammate."
Udofia chose Yale, where he will be moving in on Aug. 21, over the likes of Brown, MIT, the University of Chicago and Duke.
"For me Yale had the strongest balance,” Udofia said, referring to the elements influencing his decision, including his “gut” feeling and where he was being pushed by teachers, coaches and peers. "[That] made my decision quite easy, especially after visiting the campus multiple times and meeting coach Evans, who I felt like I had the strongest connection with of all the coaches I met throughout the recruiting process."
When it comes to his events, Udofia did not get to love the long jump until this year, when he dropped the high jump in its favor.
"I had never been a fan of it, but I grew to really enjoy it my senior season, and as of right now I'd say it's my favorite event that I participate in," he said about the long jump, his father's specialty.
Udofia did not start track and field until he enrolled at MKA.
"My Dad always told me about his love for track when I was younger, but I actually played baseball in the spring until high school," he said. "He never pressured me to get into track but was very excited when I decided to start my freshman year."
In addition to track and field, Udofia played basketball at MKA and set the school record in assists with 250 for his career there.
He recalls that his favorite moment on the hard court was just before the COVID pandemic began, on Feb. 28, 2020, at rival Montclair. While the Cougars lost, 71-53, MKA was in the game for almost the entire contest before Montclair pulled away in the fourth quarter.
"The energy before, during and after the game was the most intense energy I've ever felt live at a sporting event, and I got to play in it, which was amazing," Udofia said.
"I also got to score a few times, and it was all-around one of the most exciting nights of my life. I will never forget it."