Passing up his cousin’s graduation from Harvard was not an option for Strath Haven triple jumper Dayo Abeeb Jr.
Abeeb and his cousin, Crimson jumper Efe Uwaifo, are so close that Abeeb calls Uwaifo his “role model” when it comes to the triple jump. Their relationship is so strong that Abeeb felt compelled to see Uwaifo receive his degree in economics.
“I had to be there,” Abeeb said.
And so Abeeb, along with his parents, Dayo Sr. and Dr. Patience Abeeb, made the roughly 325-mile trek from their home in Wallingford to Cambridge, Mass. for the 366th Harvard commencement ceremony, which began at 2:30 Thursday afternoon.
“(Facebook founder and CEO) Mark Zuckerberg was the speaker,” Abeeb said. “We left around 4 o’clock.”
From there, the family made about a 425-mile trip to Shippensburg so Abeeb could compete in the boys Class 3A triple jump at the PIAA Track & Field Championships Friday morning.
“We got in around 2 o’clock in the morning,” Abeeb said.
That did not give Abeeb a lot of time to rest. The triple jump began at 9 a.m., but despite being fatigued from the journey, Abeeb managed to jump 45 feet, 10 inches to take home a fourth-place medal.
“I could definitely feel on the runway that I wasn’t properly rested,” Abeeb said. “I think that reflected on my performance, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”
Abeeb started slow, but warmed up to become the first Strath Haven athlete to medal in the triple jump since Wellington Zaza won the title in 2012. Zaza won it again the next year as a senior at Garnet Valley.
“His last jump was his best jump,” Strath Haven coach Ed Bagdasarian said. “He was a little behind the board, but he was able to pull through. There also was a little bit of a head wind, but he was ready for that.”
After driving 750 miles to see his cousin graduate and then get to Shippensburg in time to compete in the state championship meet, Abeeb wasn’t going to be denied.
“It felt good but I knew I could do better,” Abeeb said. “I’m just waiting for next year. Hopefully I can do better next year.”
It was an up and down first day of state meet competition for other Delaware County boys, too.
Penn Wood qualified for the final in both the 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 relays. Rami Marsh of Glen Mills made it through to the semifinals in the boys 110-meter high hurdles (15.4). Teammate Keon Rantin did the same in the 200 (21.78). Ethan Cook of Bonner & Prendergast also advanced to the 200 semis (22.16).
Springfield’s Liam Galligan posted the third-best time in the 1,600-meter qualifying round (4:17.54) to advance to Saturday’s final. Galligan was fourth in the metric mile last year. Teammate Philip Shovlin had the 10th best time in the 100 prelims (11.07), but that was good enough to earn him a spot in the semifinals.
Peter Cooke of Radnor advanced to the final in the 800 with a time of 1:56.62.
In the only other medal event involving Delco athletes, Semaj Robinson and D’Amonte Bell were 21st and 23rd, respectively, in the shot put. Haverford did not advance in the Class 3A 4 x 800, and Chester’s James Jackson (41.91) and Cardinal O’Hara’s Derrick Patrick (43.01) did not qualify for the final in the 300 hurdles.
In Class 2A, Neumann-Goretti’s Kamil Jihad, a resident of Chester, had the fastest qualifying time in the 800 (1:59.57).