Chika Nwachukwu throws discus during a practice at Lawrence High School on May 5, 2015. (Staff photo by Samantha Sciarrotta.)
“Don’t think.”

That’s Chika Nwachukwu’s mantra each time he steps up to throw discus for the Lawrence High School track and field team. Thinking too much about the throw, the senior said, is what causes fouls and other mishaps. Placing too much emphasis on the minutiae of his technique is just not his style.

Instead, he prefers to go into each throw with a clear mind and not too much focus on the specifics of his form. Then, the results speak for themselves.

“If you practice, the form is going to come,” he said. “It’s going to be there. At the last second, just make sure to explode as hard as you can.”

His strategy has certainly worked. Nwachukwu took second place at the Mercer County Championships on May 14 at Steinert High School with a 142-10 throw, improving upon a third-place finish at the same meet last year. He and discus teammate Adrian Sasin also won the Mercer County Relays April 23 with a school record of 268-11.

He took first place in discus in every regular season meet this year, save for one against Allentown, where he placed second. Nwachukwu’s PR is 148, and he hopes to break the school record of 156-6, set in 1973, before the season ends.

His sights are also set on the Meet of Champions on June 8, but first, he has to advance beyond the sectional meet May 27-28 and the group meet June 3-4.

And he has some unfinished business to take care of there. Nwachukwu has never made it to the MoC, but he came close last year, getting as far as groups—where he fouled all three of his throws.

“I think I was a little intimidated,” he said. “There were a lot of guys out there throwing really far. The competition might have gotten to my head a little bit. I just couldn’t get in the sectors. I’ve been working on it. I have more control now.”

With another full season under his built, has he gotten over those nerves?

“No, probably not,” he said. “I really get nervous for everything. I don’t know why.”

Despite those nerves, though, Nwachukwu has managed to perform at a high level all season—likely due to the fact that there is a lot of underlying confidence beneath that tension, said head coach Chaz Freeman.

“Chika provides a great example of a model student-athlete,” Freeman. “In the classroom, he excels, and then out on the track, he excels. I believe that especially with the track team, specifically my thrower group, he’s just a fine example. We all look at him as the example, try to aspire to be like him.”

Nwachukwu started track as a sprinter in seventh grade because he “just wanted to run.” It didn’t take long for him to realize that, at the time, running was not his strong suit, and come eighth grade, he decided to experiment with throwing.

Turns out, that was where his talent lay. He liked the immediate results throwing produced and how quickly he improved once he started learning and perfecting his technique.

Though he said he “hates” the event at times, it has been rewarding.

“I like it, but it’s difficult,” he said. “It’s really technical. Say, for example, I put my arm too low, I messed up my throw. My finger wasn’t placed right, I messed up my throw. But when you get it right, you just know. Especially when you PR.”

Discus is Nwachukwu’s priority, but he returned to running during his freshman season and has since run the 100, 200, 400 and 4×400. He’s also competed in the long jump and shot put.

“I think it goes back to his confidence and, often, his willingness to help the team,” Freeman said. “If he sees and area where he can improve the team’s points or status or efforts, he’s willing to try anything. We saw that in shot put in the winter. He came out and did shot put, and it was one of his best performances in shot since he started with the program.”

At press time, Nwachukwu still had the postseason meets to look forward to, and Freeman said he was confident the thrower could put last year’s fouls behind him.

“I think he’s intrisically motivated,” Freeman said. “His goal when he came out for this season was to break the school record. With that focus in mind, he stays motivated. He kind of just uses that to push himself.”

He’s no stranger to pushing himself, whether it’s on the track or in the classroom. Nwachukwu is set to attend Villanova University in the fall, where he will major in computer engineering. He want to eventually work with hardware, “make some new stuff.” His older sister, Chidinma, is now a student at Princeton University, and his older brother Chigozie goes to the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

When he started the college application process, Nwachukwu wasn’t thinking about athletics, but as he continues to improve, he thinks competing at that level is now a possibility. He plans to try out for the school’s track and field team as a walk-on.

That improvement is due to a desire to not only listen to but also utilize feedback.

“He’s coachable, so if I talk to him about an adjustment that needs to be made, he’s very good at taking the lead in certain situations,” Freeman said. “I really think he’s just a natural leader. He comes out here, he does the routine that I’m asking him to do. When he goes into the circle to throw his discus, his attention to detail and his work ethic—he’ll stay out here all day, if I let him. I think those are the kind of qualities you want out of your leaders, to be one of the hardest-working people on the team…He’s just a fine example of leadership on the track and field team. I wish I had a whole team full of Chikas.”