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Park's Alowonle keeps going after graduating from UNC

RJ Alowonle, right, runs in a past race for the University of North Carolina. Alowonle wrapped up his NCAA career this spring but plans to continue his track and field training. (File photo by Cheryl Treworgy/UNC Athletic Communications)

Park graduate RJ Alowonle is not ready to give up on his track and field dreams after finishing his senior season with the University of North Carolina men's track and field team.

Alowonle had a disappointing finish to his career at the NCAA track and field outdoor championships early this June in the 400-meter hurdles. He knocked his foot on a barrier, spilling onto the track in Eugene, Ore., during a semifinal heat. It was the first time in Alowonle's life that he fell during competition.

"The next thing I remember I was on the track," Alowonle recalled. "I was like, 'This is not what was planned.'"

Despite the fall, Alowonle was determined to finish the final race of his NCAA career. The UNC senior got up and crossed the finish line with a time of one minute, 12.79 seconds.

Although the fall ended his chances of getting to the finals, one of Alowonle's first thoughts was to finish the race.

"I think the only defeat would have been if I had stayed down because I think there is a lot more to come," Alowonle said. "I do believe that, and I didn't want that moment to define me as a hurdler."

Alowonle had an opportunity to redeem himself during the USA Track and Field Championships June 22-25 in Sacramento, Calif. Alowonle ran a time of 50.37 to qualify for the 400-meter hurdles semifinals. But he finished 15th in a loaded semifinals race after crossing the finish line in 50.97.

It was another bittersweet race as he fell short of qualifying for the finals in a semifinals heat that included a former Olympian and NCAA 400-meter hurdle champion Eric Futch.

"That's the thing in track, is every single time you go up there you get a result," Alowonle said. "It's really, really objective. In some other sports, you can maybe play not-so-great, but you get a lot of points, or your team wins the game."

Alowonle is not ready to give up on his track and field career now that he has run out of NCAA eligibility.

Alowonle was offered a job this fall through Deloitte Consulting, based in Atlanta. Wanting to get another year of training in, Alowonle was granted a year off by Deloitte before starting the position.

Alowonle is headed back to Minnesota this summer to spend time with family, but he will soon begin the process of searching for a coach. He hopes to earn a spot with the Nigerian team to compete in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, scheduled April 4-15 in Australia.

After a NCAA career in which he twice earned All-America honors and was a five-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion, Alowonle will get one more season of high-level track and field competition. He hopes to make the most of it.

"I'm going to continue to train and compete, and see where it takes me," Alowonle said.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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