Okoro sisters’ dream delivers at Iowa State


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

Ejiro Okoro, left, and Ese Okoro are twin sisters and both in the track team. Okoros talk to their coach on Tuesday before practice at the Lied Recreation Athletic Center. 

Isaac Copley

Ever since Ejiro and Ese Okoro first stepped on the track back in their home country of England, they have dreamed of running at the Division I level in the United States.

“Everything we said when we were little has happened here,” Ejiro said. “We always said we wanted to live in America and go to school in America and we just liked to say it and dream. It’s all right here, it’s a blessing.”

Although the two are twins, Ejiro is a senior while Ese will have one more year of eligibility. Both of the Okoro sisters ran track at the university level in England, but each competed for different universities — Ese at Middlesex University in London and Ejiro at the University of Greenwich in London.

Adjusting to the new style and structure of school and athletics in the United States was difficult at first, but both have since embraced it.

“In England, people usually go to university for academics, but here people are here to do sports and academics,” Ese said. “I think the work ethic in the student-athletes and my teammates is very constant and straightforward.”

Settling in at a new school — in a new country — is a problem many athletes in track face. However, the Okoros feel they have benefitted from a different style of training in the United States.

“For me, my training in England compared to training here, things are more structured and more engaging,” Ejiro said. “Compared to my specific training, everything I’ve done here is completely different.”

The Okoros have been taking advantage of their training at Iowa State and the transition as well as the help of their teammates made things much easier.

“I think coach [Corey Ihmels] and the training complements me well,” Ese said. “Everything within our team is like one big happy family, and I really like it.”

In their two years at Iowa State, the Okoro sisters have racked up some noteworthy accolades.

Ejiro, a mid-distance runner, finished seventh in the 800-meter run to earn All-America honors at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Ese, a sprinter and a hurdler, is the reigning Big 12 champion in the 600-yard dash.

In addition to their dream of competing in the United States, coaching and training were major influences on the decision to attend and compete at Iowa State. However, the twins have come to appreciate more than just the track side of Ames.

“For one, the weather: in the spring and summer it’s actually hot,” Ese said with a laugh. “In England, it rains every day; it’s cold and gloomy every day.”

Ihmels has played a large part in the twins’ successes at Iowa State. Ihmels has enjoyed having the Okoros in his program and sees them both having explosive seasons.

“I think this year you’ve seen the improvement you would have hoped to have seen,” Ihmels said. “Especially with them coming over, that first year is a pretty big shock. We’ve seen a pretty big jump from both of them, and I think they are just scratching the surface of what they can do, they’ve been a good fit here.”

Competing has come easy to the Okoros and now that they are settled in, Ihmels expects big things.

“I expect them to keep getting better and better,” Ihmels said. “They are more settled in this year and understand better of what we want from them.”