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CIF-SS MASTERS MEET – John Glenn’s Udengwu shakes off sluggish start, advances to state preliminaries with one throw

John Glenn High senior Mikel Udengwu had a sore throat, which hit its peak around last Wednesday and Thursday, and the meds were making him dizzy so he scratched on three of his first four throws before sending himself to state on his fifth attempt with a throw of 181-10.

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May 24, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

MOORPARK-After throwing a career-best 193-00 in the discus event at last Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section divisional championships, John Glenn High senior Mikel Udengwu knew it wouldn’t be as easy to punch his ticket to Friday’s CIF state preliminaries in Clovis. While he was excited to advance to last Saturday’s Masters Meet at Moorpark High with the top mark in Division 3, he admitted that it’s the hardest to throw and get the qualifying mark when you’re expected to win.

Udengwu knew there was going to be more pressure to get the qualifying mark of 171-00 for state, and on top of that, he had been sick since the day after the divisional finals and wasn’t himself. The medicine he was taking to solve a sore throat, which hit its peak around last Wednesday and Thursday, was making him dizzy and that’s why Udengwu scratched on three of his first four throws before sending himself to state on his fifth attempt with a throw of 181-10.

“It feels good; it’s something I really wasn’t expecting coming into the season because my [personal record] was around 130 [feet] last season,” said Udengwu. “My very first mark was around 130, and then I don’t know…last week was 190 and now I hit a 181. It’s just a crazy feeling, but I knew with hard work, I was going to get there, though.

“I just had to use my confidence,” he later said. “That’s the one thing that really carries me to the next level; just being confident in myself and know that I’m going to succeed.”

He added that his balance was off because when he scratches, it’s because he just throws out of the sector. He rarely has problems spinning back into the sector or going out. On top of that, he didn’t sleep well last Friday night.

“It means a lot [for the school and community],” said Glenn head coach Andy De La Torre. “I probably got to [the city of] Norwalk when I was about 10 years old. So, I’ve been around the city for about 14 years now and I think it’s big. Typically, Glenn isn’t a school that’s looked at for athletics. Personally, I lived in Norwalk and went to La Mirada [High], so it’s just one of those things where even at La Mirada when you would see Glenn on the schedule for any sport, you really didn’t think too much. But when I got here, that’s something that I wanted to change. I wanted people to see us…when they see us on the schedule, they would say this is a school we shouldn’t take lightly. That’s the biggest thing for us.”


John Glenn High discus thrower Mikel Udengwu is flanked by throwers coach Ray Neimann and Glenn track and field head coach Andy De La Torre after last Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet. Udengwu qualified for the state preliminaries with a throw of 181-10, which he did on the fifth of his six attempts. PHOTO BY LOREN KOPFF.


Udengwu had the top mark from the divisional finals and was the last of a dozen competitors to throw at the Masters Meet. Three of the first nine didn’t have a mark after their first throws and the top score from the other six was 169-2, set by Zach Lewis of Pacifica High. Then Udengwu’s friendly rival in the competition, Brandon See of JSerra High, threw a 180-6 before Redondo Union High’s Kai Deines had a 165-10 before Udengwu’s turn.

After the first three rounds, the competitors are re-seeded based off the top throws. Knowing that he had to have some type of mark to continue for the final three rounds, Udengwu, who scratched on his second attempt, tossed his discus a mere 12-1 to stay alive. He would be the first to go for the fourth round and after scratching again, qualified on his fifth throw. He would end the event with the second best mark as Justice Mephors of J.W. North High threw a 184-7 on his fifth attempt. Mephors entered the day with the fourth best mark from the divisional finals and had scratched on three of his first four attempts.

“There was a point after the four throws I went to the ring and I spun my practice spin around 15 times,” said Udengwu. “On my throw of 181, I was sweating just because I was like, ‘I need to get a mark, I need to get a mark’.

“I thought it would ease up because now I’m first again,” he later added. “It’s usual for me not being at the top of the list. But I still scratched, so I was so confused. I tried to slow down and just get into my rhythm, and I still scratched. I was just lost, to be honest, and I really didn’t know what to do.”

“I think he tried too hard in his first throw,” said Glenn throwers coach Ray Neimann. “I asked him to just get a nice mark; throw 80 percent or so and get a decent mark, and then after that mark is set…past 171 [feet], then go for the gold. I think he tried a little too hard with the medicine [he was taking], the strep throat and issues he was having. I think he’s been a little dizzy and that’s why he scratched so many times.”

Udengwu said last year’s results prepared him for this year as he had no issues during the warmups at the 2022 divisional finals, then scratched on his first two throws before getting a mark to keep his junior season going.

After getting 181-0 with one more attempt, knowing he had qualified for state, he said he was pushing harder on the last attempt to get a personal record. But he scratched again to become the first of two throwers to scratch four times.

“Once I saw the white flag go up, I was like, ‘alright, let’s just see what the distance is’,” said De La Torre. “Then we heard the 181-0 and I was like, ‘alright, sweet’. I didn’t care whether we took first, second or sixth. All we wanted to do was get a qualifying mark to go on to compete [in the state preliminaries].

Jake Stafford of JSerra High (176-0), Christopher Nora of Oak Hills High (175-1) and Jesse Goldman of Harvard-Westlake High (171-8) were the other state qualifiers but as it relates to Udengwu, he has built a competitive rivalry with See and has gotten the upper hand lately. They were the top two Division 3 finishers in the CIF-SS finals with marks of 193-0 and 179-04 and had the second and third best marks at the Masters Meet.

“To be honest, I didn’t think it would be me versus him at the beginning of the season,” said Udengwu. “But now, I’ve embraced it. It’s an honor to be one and two in California, so hopefully we do good in state and I’m up for the challenge.

“He has had a lot of dedication and stuff,” said Neimann. “I coached him in football and we did well. He’s just a good worker; he understands the concepts and so he applies those to work. That’s what it is.

“He’s a role model for the kids, especially at Glenn because they don’t understand what it takes to be dedicated and what success will come once you dedicate yourself and be diligent to what your passion is,” he continued.

As far as preparation this week, Neimann said they were going to make sure he eats well and gets his [sore throat] cured up. Neimann also believes that Udengwu will throw over 200 feet in Clovis. Udengwu will go into Friday’s preliminaries with the third best mark in the state, trailing Mephors and McKay Madsen of Clovis North High (191-03). He is one of 25 discus throwers to have advanced to the state preliminaries and if he stays within that range, Udengwu is poised to bring a medal back to the high school.