Aderinola “Derin” Adunbi remembers her freshman season in track – it wasn’t really all that long ago. But it’s a long way in performance considering how far the season has come in just four short years.
“My freshman year of track I wasn’t sure what events I wanted to do,” says the Pioneer senior. “I thought that I would be a sprinter all four years, and mainly focused on the 200 and 4×200 relay. My best time that year was a 28.83, which wasn’t bad for a freshman but not nearly as fast as any of the other sprinters on the team.”
She also took a shot at throwing the shot – which didn’t really go all that far. “I threw shot put and discus but they were not very good. My best throw in shot by the end of the season was 28’10 and in disc it was somewhere around 60’.”
Something happened between that first year and this, her final year. She went from 28-10 as a freshman to 42-04.25 on April 9 against Bedford which was not only a personal best but a school record in the shot put.
From someone who wasn’t all that excited about the shot put to landing on the top of the record book is some kind of wonderful.
Adunbi says it was during her sophomore year when things started to accelerate.
“We had just hired a new throw coach and I was starting to consistently throw over 30’ in shot,” she said.
Her best throws by the end of her sophomore season were 35’9.5” in the shot and 93’3” in the discus. She won the SECs in shot put that season.
Her rise continued during her junior year.
“There was another change in the coaching staff, and I was very glad I was able to vibe with him so well,” she says. “I placed fourth at the state meet with a throw of 39’10” and I also won shot put at regionals, placed 5th in discus at that meet, won shot at SECs and qualified for states. I was winning all the dual meets in shot put and placing in the top six in discus.”
Then came April 9 in an SEC dual-meet against Bedford.
“My warmup throws were looking really good and I felt super relaxed,” she says of that memorable day. “I remember telling my teammates that it would be so cool if I broke the record that day. My first throw was a season best, which I was very excited about. Then I did my second throw. I remember that it was very relaxed and the shot came off my fingers very easily. When I saw where it landed, I thought, ‘Oh shoot! Did I actually break the record?’
“I held the hands of our two throwers who were with me as the distance was read out, and when it turned out it was a new school record we screamed. It was very exciting and I will definitely never forget that feeling.”
Adunbi has continued to excel in both throws, especially the shot put. She took first place at the SEC Red Championship last weekend with a toss of 38-2 – not a school record, but not bad.
The team also is cruising along. The Pioneers won the SEC Red on Saturday and are looking for strong results on Friday during the Regionals at Saline. Adunbi says the Pioneers have “great energy.”
“Everyone comes to practice wanting to work hard and improve, and we all push each other to work to the best of our abilities,” she says. “We are all so supportive of each other, it’s like we are each other’s family. I always look forward to coming to practice because I know I’ll be surrounded by people who want nothing but the best for each other.”
That work ethic and mindset only raises the bar when it comes to expectations.
“Our biggest goal this year is to place at States,” Adunbi says. “I remember my sophomore year, against all odds, our team had won the state competition. That year we had beat our biggest competitor, Oak Park, and it was such an exciting time for everybody. We didn’t have such a big win last year, but this year, I think we have a great chance of doing well.”
Adunbi is one of the team captains this year, a role she cherishes and doesn’t take for granted.
“It has been such an amazing experience leading the team that has fostered so many of my greatest memories and friendships,” she says. “As captain, I try my best to make sure that I am available to everybody on the team as a mentor or friend. I want to be able to lead by example while also remaining approachable to everybody. We organize team bonding activities, dinners and spirit days in order to create the sense of a team identity.”
Adunbi started track in middle school because she had always liked watching the sprinters in the Olympics. She liked the variety of events to choose from and quickly found a home on the track.
“I felt like there was always an event that catered to everybody’s abilities,” she says. “Whether it was long jump, the two mile, or shot put, there is always something for people to try and excel at.”
She first threw a shot put in the eighth grade.
“One of my friends who did the event thought that I would be good at it because I looked strong, so one day I went to a shot put practice and started throwing,” she says. “Ever since then, I fell in love with throwing. Once I got to high school, I continued shot put, and started to throw discus. Although I was not very good when I first started, I knew that this was something I wanted to do for as long as possible.”
Aderinola, the daughter of Omolade and Feyisetan Adunbi, is throwing out some big numbers in the classroom as well. It’s not a school record but a 3.937 GPA isn’t bad. She plans on going to the University of Michigan for the next four years and is still deciding between psychology, neuroscience, biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience (BCN) as majors but is “definitely pursuing any one of those on the pre-med track.”
“I chose Michigan because of the psychology program, research opportunities, and its commitment to undergraduates,” she says. “I do hope to continue throwing in college, and hopefully I will be able to try out in the fall.”
While she is looking forward to heading across the street, she is going to miss being a Pioneer.
“The past four years at Pioneer have been amazing,” she said. “I’ve made so many friends and memories that I will never forget. I have had a lot of ups and downs, but I am so thankful I was able to get through it all with the support of family and friends. I will certainly miss all my teachers, friends, and coaches as I go on to college. I will especially miss the team because they are my second family, and the bond I have with them is something that is going to last a long time.”
They still have a little more time together to make more memories, work hard, compete, have fun and maybe break another school record or two.
Photos by Terry Jacoby