By Maggie Franke
Junior sprinter Favor Ezewuzie is a standout at Wheaton College for many different reasons, but her athletic success as a member of Wheaton’s Women’s Track and Field team has brought her into the limelight. But track was not the sport that brought Ezewuzie to Wheaton in the first place.
“I had originally come to Wheaton wanting to play basketball,”Ezewuzie said. “I mainly played basketball from the time I was ten until the time that I was about 18.”
Ezewuzie attended high school at Covenant Christian Academy in Peabody, Mass. The school highlighted her basketball performance at the 2019 NCAA DIII Women’s Indoor Track and Field national meet on their Facebook page. But the Ezewuzie’s have not always called Massachusetts home. Like Favor, her family was brought to a different place due to an exciting educational opportunity.
“Both of my parents were born and raised in Nigeria,” Ezewuzie said. “They came to the U.S. in the 1990s and then they had me and my brothers. My dad is visually impaired, so he can’t see. There are not a lot of opportunities for someone who is blind to move up in the scale of education in Nigeria. He got scholarship to come to the U.S. and study law at Boston University.”
Ezewuzie said her parents encouraged her to understand that sports are a way to glorify and worship God, whether she won or lost. Her two older brothers were role models to her as basketball players themselves.
Looking at schools, Ezewuzie was originally interested in attending Gordon College in Massachusetts, but she heard about an interesting Christian college in Illinois that caught her attention. However, Wheaton was not a definite option for Ezewuzie to play basketball right away.
“I had gotten into Wheaton, but I couldn’t afford it,” Ezewuzie said. “May came around, and I found out that I got a scholarship to come to Wheaton. At that point, I hadn’t made a decision.”
Ezewuzie accepted the Don and Ann Church scholarship awarded to students of multicultural backgrounds or of racial minority who have exceptional academic standing and leadership qualities. She emailed Coach Madsen and asked to visit Wheaton and try out for the team. Upon her arrival for the 2016-17 academic year, Madsen told her that they were not taking tryouts that season.
“I decided to be the manager,” Ezewuzie said. She videotaped all of their home games that season. “The scholarship brought me to Wheaton, but I really wanted to play basketball,” she said. “I was determined that even if I couldn’t try out my freshman year that I would try out the next year, my sophomore year.”
But then plans changed. “So then when I joined the track team I thought, ‘Oh yeah I can run track, I mean I guess it’s kind of cool.’ I always thought that I was kind of fast,” Ezewuzie said.
Ezewuzie developed a love for running during the 2017 outdoor track season. Basketball was still in the back of her mind until she started running the 4×100-meter relay and learning how to run hurdles. That season, Ezewuzie ran as a part of Wheaton’s All-American and CCIW-champion 4×100 meter relay and was All-CCIW in the 100-meter hurdles, the long jump.
Though recognized as an individual standout runner, Ezewuzie remarked on how the culture of Wheaton’s track team revealed that track is, in fact, a team-driven sport. “It is a sport where you are constantly aware of other people and encouraging them through it,” Ezewuzie said. “I have found that sometimes I have to train on my own, and it is not the same. There’s something about being able to train with your teammates that is so needed and important because they push you, lead you and affirm you.”
According to Ezewuzie, four to five Wheaton athletes run in the same race together, but before they run, they pray that they will glorify God during their race and find the joy of the Lord’s pleasure.
One race in particular is significant to Ezewuzie: the 4×400-meter relay at Swarthmore College. “Getting on that bus, spending so many hours with them, going out there and running the 4×4 was, for me, something that was so incredible because I learned what it means to do something, not because you love it, but because you’re a part of something bigger than yourself,” Ezewuzie said. “If you ask anyone, I do not love the 400. But each time I get up there to get the baton, it’s for this team, for this school, for the people I represent. Finishing at the end with four people, there’s something about that … I’ve never experienced that before. Running something that is so difficult, but knowing that you are part of something bigger.”
At the “Last Chance Meet” in 2018 at Swarthmore College, Ezewuzie, Natasha Brown, Marissa Heath and Erika Johnson finished in first place in 3:48.12. At the time, that was the third fastest run in DIII.
Wheaton’s track team has only encouraged the mentality that Ezewuzie was raised with, in terms of what sports really mean. “My parents have always been people that have allowed us to see the bigger picture behind sports,” Ezewuzie said. “You’re running to glorify the Lord. I am a part of a community of people that relies on me and relies on my commitment and my drive to be a part of it, but I also see being a part of a team as a way to glorify and worship the Lord.”
Ezewuzie said that competing as a part of the Thunder has allowed her to grow as an athlete but truly grow in her faith as well. “For me, it even applies to running hurdles,” Ezewuzie said. “There are days that you’re running and you hit a hurdle bad. After that, are you going to continue to run after the next hurdle? Or is that going to mentally get at you? Oh, I hit this hurdle, so my next race I’m going to hit all of them. It’s this mindset that I have seen with the Lord. God, no matter what challenges come my way, you are faithful to bring me through each obstacle.”