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Ekwueme Refects on Academic, Athletic Career in Medford

by Matt Frey, Sports Editor

After playing key roles in two of Medford’s five Great Northern Conference team championships earned during the 2019-20 school year, Onyi Ekwueme didn’t get the chance to win a third with the cancellation of the spring sports season.

Ekwueme does, however, end his senior year with an impressive prize as the school’s male M Award winner for 2020.

M Awards are presented annually to two senior studentathletes at Medford Area Senior High, one male and one female, following a vote that includes the school’s coaches and its teaching staff who consider candidates’ academic and athletic achievements. Minimum requirements are a 3.0 grade-point average and four letters won during their time at MASH.

Winners are then submitted as Medford’s candidates for one of the state’s most prestigious honors, the WIAA Scholar Athlete Award. Emily Schafer is this year’s female winner.

Ekwueme is a three-year letter winner in soccer, a twoyear letter winner in basketball and would’ve been a key piece in the track and field team’s varsity lineup for the third straight spring. He’s set to follow his sister Oby, a 2012 graduate, and brother Osy in attending the University of Notre Dame.

“It just shows that even if you’re in three sports you should still maintain a high academic standard,” Ekwueme said. “I just think that’s my family’s influence on me because if I wasn’t maintaining a high academic standard I wouldn’t be in three sports. They wouldn’t let me. They’d be like, ‘grades first.’ My family and God have just pushed me to be the best person I can be. I know the academics are first, even though sports are fun.

“I always made sure I had a study hall every year and using that wisely to study,” he added. “It’s a lot of late nights and I can’t get a job during the school year really because my grades would tank. You have to be really focused when you get home. You can’t really play video games throughout the week.”

Family certainly is an important aspect in Ekwueme’s life. He said he’s thankful for the discipline his parents, Osmond and Jackie, have instilled in him and he’s thankful to have older siblings to look up to. Osy Ekwueme was Medford’s M Award winner back in 2017. He will start his fourth year at Notre Dame in the fall, and that was a factor when Onyi made his decision to go to South Bend.

“I really think Osy helped me be the person I am today,” Onyi said. “He’s really my role model for sports and high school. He won the scholar athlete award too, so he just showed me how to do it.

“It’s just a legacy I guess,” he added. “I was torn between Northwestern and Notre Dame. Since Osy’s going to be a senior there, I feel like my freshman year will be a lot easier. They have the program I’m going into, regenerative medicine. With that and Osy being there I feel like my freshman year is going to be way easier than a lot of people’s because Osy is a very protective brother. So I can always ask him for anything and I can just ask him for advice on how to navigate college without getting into too much trouble and try to get into the right crowds and find new friends.”

Regenerative medicine involves developing methods to regrow, repair or replace damaged diseased cells, organs and tissues and includes work with stem cells.

Onyi said his top sports memory at MASH is being a part of the school’s first GNC boys soccer championship this past fall, even though he couldn’t play in the clinching game at Rhinelander because he had accumulated five yellow cards during the season, some of which the team respectfully disagreed with. “That was awesome,” he said. “It was the first time in school history. Even though I couldn’t play in the last game –– that was really annoying –– just watching them play and watching them win, I just started crying after that because it was so emotional. I had been thinking about that since sixth grade maybe. It’s been my dream. Then I got the privilege of winning the (GNC) Co-Offensive Player of the Year. That was awesome. Ever since I’ve been watching Osy play I knew I wanted to do that. I wanted to put myself at the highest level I could. It was just a lot of hard work. I think Osy pushed me to be my best. In my freshman year, I got the privilege to be on varsity and play with him.”

Ekwueme is a two-time, first-team All-GNC selection in soccer and a 2017 honorable mentionee. He earned honorable mention following the Raiders’ 12-0 GNC championship season in boys basketball this winter and has a 2019 honorable mention award in track to his credit.

Obviously, losing the end of his senior year is disappointing.

“I wish I could see my friends one more time at school because I know this whole summer is going to be off and on,” Ekwueme said. “I miss spring sports. Track isn’t my top sport, but the meets are super fun.”