Juwon Owolabi – Track and Field
Eight days after his 14th birthday, Juwon Owolabi ’16 enrolled at Milton Hershey School from Chicago, Illinois.
“My mom passed away when I was seven, and my brother was born two weeks before that happened,” he said. “My dad became a single father of five kids, and we didn’t have the resources for me to be at home.”
Juwon traveled to Hershey, Pennsylvania and began eighth grade at MHS in January of 2012. It was difficult for him to be away from his family, but athletics gave him a chance to feel connected to them. His mom, dad, and sister had all competed in track and field, so Juwon felt a special calling to join the team at MHS—an opportunity he didn’t have at home.
“I always knew I was athletic, and I was always one of the fastest kids in the class,” Juwon said. “But I was never able to try track and field because I was busy taking care of my brother at home,” he said.
In eighth grade, he finally had a chance. Juwon joined the MHS track and field team and remembers a distinct moment where he almost gave up, but realized he could succeed.
“I remember joining the team and we were doing a timed 400-meter trial. I was trying to hide because it’s one of the toughest races. I wasn’t going to come back [to practice] the next day,” he said. “But the coach called me out and [asked me to run]. I ended up getting one of the top three fastest times. Ever since that moment, I decided to stick with track and field.”
Throughout high school, Juwon competed on the track and field team and also played basketball. Near the end of his high school career, he transitioned from sprinting to the triple jump and long jump events.
“When I jump, I block out everything else except the runway and the pit. When I take off, it really feels like I’m flying. I love that feeling,” he said.
After graduating from MHS in 2016, Juwon enrolled at Lehigh University and joined the Division I track and field team. He became the Patriot League Rookie of the Week during his freshman year, but only after adjusting his mindset and adapting to Lehigh’s rigorous training schedule.
“Everybody at Lehigh was really good in high school, so I had to become humble. It was a tough process, but MHS prepared me for that transition,” Juwon said. “I had to adapt all the time at MHS, so that helped me adjust really quickly to the level of intensity at Lehigh.”
Juwon is enrolled in the university’s computer science and business dual degree program. To keep up with his academics and sports schedule, he holds himself accountable for managing his time—a habit that was instilled in him at MHS.
Some of Juwon’s relationships from MHS, including his roommate Linzell Robinson ’16 who also attends Lehigh, continue to guide him and ground him. “We hold each other accountable and remind each other where we come from,” Juwon said.
He also keeps in touch with his coaches and mentors at MHS. His coach’s advice is what drives him to be better each day as a college athlete.
“There’s always somebody working. My MHS coach used to tell us that at every practice,” Juwon said. “When I came to Lehigh and saw how dedicated these athletes were, it made me realize you either get better or worse. If you feel like taking it easy, just think about what you want to be and what you have to do to get there.”
Many MHS Spartans go on to compete at a professional level in a variety of sports and credit MHS with teaching them the value of hard work, discipline and teamwork. Whether they’re setting records on the basketball court or playing in the Super Bowl, these dedicated athletes have earned Spartan success! Read their stories.