PICTURED ABOVE // Fifth grader Sena-Ter Asom holds up her medal from the AAU Junior Olympic Games at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Staring down the red strip of track ahead of her, fifth grader Sena-Ter Asom takes a deep breath. Legs a blur, she sprints as fast as she can down the 40 meter runway leading up to the pit of sand determining her fate. As soon as she sees the crisp-white takeoff board, she leaps in the air, squeezes her legs together and lands in the sand. An official immediately measures her distance.
With a long jump score of 13 feet and 11.25 inches, she has placed fourth in the 10-year-old age division at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic games.
Sena-Ter Asom competed at the AAU Junior Olympic Games at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, from July 28 to Aug. 4. Her success was the product of a summer’s worth of track meets and practice, her long jump achievement distinguishing her as a top youth athlete in the United States.
“My experience [at the Junior Olympics] was long, but worth it,” Sena-Ter Asom said. “I knew it was worth it when I stood on the podium and got my medal after such a long week.”
Qualifying for the Junior Olympics is not an easy feat—the journey began in Abilene, Texas. In order for Sena-Ter Asom to make it to Iowa, she was required to have placed in the top 6 of her long jump and running events at the AAU Track & Field Regional Qualifier Meet, taking place from June 28 to July 1. Her high scores in the long jump, the 200 and the 100 meter dashes ensured that she would be booking a flight for a trip to Des Moines.
Sena-Ter Asom’s love for track began when she was six years old, mostly as a way for her to stay active in the summertime.
“I have been involved in track since I was a baby,” Sena-Ter Asom said. “All of my siblings ran track, so it was expected that I would too. It wasn’t until last year when my dad told me ‘You have long legs, you would be a good long jumper’ that I tried it out.”
Her parents Moses and Angela Asom began to realize she had a gift as her collection of gold medals grew. They brought her speed to a competitive level in 2016 with both Texas Action Track Club and Proskills Track Club, located in Allen, Texas.
“She’s very hardworking and disciplined— we never have to push her,” Moses Asom said. “She has already plotted out what she needs to do each year to accomplish her goals. She loves to benchmark where she needs to be in order to succeed.”
The discipline and work ethic acquired from participating in competitive sports definitely translates into athletes’ everyday lives. Moses Asom credits Hockaday for these skills and realizes that the school and her extracurriculars, such as the robotics club and soccer team, have made her a leader inside and outside of the classroom.
“[Hockaday] has given her the skills of discipline and determination,” Moses Asom said. “It sets girls up for their future, it gives them skills that they can use today, tomorrow and for the rest of their lives.”
“I knew it was worth it when I stood on the podium and got my medal after such a long week.”
Gina Hunter, Sena-Ter Asom’s fourth- grade math teacher, testifies to this element of her character, praising her achievements in the classroom.
“Sena is a great student,” Hunter said. “She is a very compassionate young lady and collaborates great with her classmates. She’s a hard worker.”
Her father acknowledges the lessons learned from participating in the sport, especially in relation to the diverse representation within the community.
“She loves talking to different people that she meets at [track events]” Moses Asom said. “She has learned to relate to kids with different backgrounds than her.”
Because of Sena-Ter Asom’s rigorous summer training schedule, it doesn’t leave her much time to do what most 10-year-olds her age are doing.
“I miss out on things I like to do in the summer, like going to birthday parties and staying home and resting,” Sena-Ter Asom said. “Sometimes I get sad, but it ends up being worth it. It brings me joy when I win.”
This process is not unfamiliar to the Asom family. Sena-Ter Asom, the youngest of four, has been surrounded by athletes her entire life. Her siblings Mimi, Yima and Anase—all Hockaday and St. Mark’s alumni—have participated in collegiate soccer at Princeton, Dartmouth and the University of Chicago, respectively. While they are large motivators for the youngest Asom, she realizes the unique aspect of her own athletic talent.
“When I see my siblings, I am like ‘Wow, that’s what my siblings did’” Sena-Ter Asom said. “But I want to go my own path instead of following the three ahead of me.”
Her parents similarly recognize this element of their daughter’s life and praise their youngest child for her own achievements.
“Ever since she was little, she has been very observant of her older siblings,” Angela Asom said. “She loves that she has her own experiences that she can have conversations with them about. I wouldn’t say there is pressure for her to be successful. I think it is important that she can watch Mimi on ESPN and have her as a role model.”
Sena-Ter Asom has her own goals for her athletic career. She hopes to attend the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, only 10 years away. Her success fuels her for the years to come, an indicator of all the hard work she will have to put in to achieve her goals.
“What I want to say is that you should be yourself and do what you like,” Sena-Ter Asom said. “You should express yourself to different people and good things will happen.”
Story by Shea Duffy
Photo provided by Moses Asom