“Different people have different mindsets, so do what you love,” is the advice 23-year-old Idia Omogiate has to offer, and she practices what she preaches. Unlike most recent college graduates, Idia got a well paying job at a competitive company, and get this, she doesn’t have to pay a single dime of student loans back due to her impressive track career throughout high school and college. After receiving numerous offers from various schools, Idia attended Chicago’s DePaul University, then after one year transferred to Big 12 school Baylor University in Waco, Texas with a full ride. Even with her dreams and full potential of going to the Olympics, she felt that she had a different calling in life.
Tell us about your athletic career. What sports have you played or do you play currently?
I played tennis and I ran track and field. I played tennis for ten years and I ran track and field for like fifteen years.
What made you pursue track over tennis?
I actually really wanted to run for Team Nigeria [in the Olympics] because my dad is half Nigerian so I would be able to run for them. But then I was like nah, I’ll focus on school. But I wanted to [run track] because it was something that I loved and I don’t feel pressured doing it. You just have to work hard to achieve great results. I mean, tennis was good but my dad was my coach so that’s probably the reason why I quit [laughs]…’cause he was crazy!
What did your training consist of?
Ooh Jesus. So [prior] to the season we do a lot of long run miles. Then once the season starts we do weights at least twice a week. Squats, front squats, bench presses, pushups…stuff like that. Then we max out to see how much we can lift at once. During the season we do more sprint workouts, shorter distance to work on our speed. One day out of the week we would do one long distance workout. In the beginning it’s all so hard…whooo Jesus!
So I heard you can squat over 200 lbs. Can you give us some tips on how to get our booty to look like yours?
[laughs] Yeah, I did squat over 200 lbs. My max one year was 315 [lbs] and I was only able to do one or two reps. Yeah, I don’t think I can do any more of that! I just started working out again and haven’t done squats in a while so I haven’t reached that weight yet.
You have a pretty impressive track record. Can you humblebrag your best records for us?
My best record, I would have to say, was the 400[m] because my last year of college I did the 400[m] and I was like, ugh this 400 is gonna be hard…blah blah blah… but I should have done it a long time ago. I ran it by myself and timed at 54.3 seconds and in the relay, I was first leg so I timed at 53.8 seconds. Usually a good time for a 400 runner would be 49 seconds if you are in the Olympics, and for college it would be between 50-54 seconds. So 400m would be running one time around the track.
I placed in the Big 12 Conference my senior year of college, I got 7th [place] in the 400m. I didn’t get 1st but shoot at least I placed in the conference! I was also in the 4×4 relay race and we placed second. I went to Regional’s for the 400 meter race. I didn’t make it to Nationals for the 400, but my team and I made it Nationals for the 4×4 race. That’s when 4 of us run 400 meters each, passing around a stick. So we made it to Nationals, went to Eugene, Oregon and got medals.
In high school at Lane Tech, my team and I won the city championship three years in a row except for my senior year we got 2nd place ‘cause I got injured. I was so sad. Because I got injured we lost like 30 points. All I was able to do was walk across the finish line. Other than that we did well in the relays. I placed in the long jumps. I placed in the 100-200m Dash. Oh! And I went to State Finals Senior year. Of course I got last place since I was injured so all I had to do was walk across the line so I could get my medal [laughs]. But I made it to the finals.
It’s safe to say that sports are very important to your family. How much sweat, blood and tears did you put into track and field?
[Sighs] Man, it’s a lot. There would be times where my dad would make my sister and I stay outside training for hours. We would have to wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning before school JUST to exercise. BEFORE. SCHOOL. Like, things you think your parents wouldn’t make you do, my dad made us do [laughs]. This man made us run laps before we went to school and had us on the tennis court for 5 hours one day in the hot sun because we didn’t get something right. I was so sad but I knew it was only to help get me better. I mean, I was good at tennis but he was just over the top along with our other coaches. Our other coaches were foreign as well so you know how they are! I know now that they only wanted the best out of me, but it was too much for me at that age.
During the track season was it hard to balance a social life?
When I first got to Baylor [University] it was hard actually balancing school and traveling at the same time. So I didn’t do all that well my sophomore year which was sad because I never did badly in school! I was like, Oh my goodness, how do I do this?! I’m not gon’ lie, I was on academic probation my sophomore year because I did not know what to do. But after that, that’s when I got it together ‘cause I was like, there’s no way I’m leaving this school. So once I found that balance it started getting easier and easier. I was able to do my homework, go to tutoring and travel. We would travel from Thursday to Sunday, so those days I’m not in class I don’t know what’s going on. But my friends and social life was good because most of my friends were athletes anyways so we all did the same things.
Do you still want to pursue track and go to the Olympics?
Well, my senior year I did want to go to the Olympics but then I was like you know what, maybe I should just focus on school, because in order to get money from track you need to have signed endorsements. The track world is hard because people put us at the bottom of the totem pole. Other sports are way ahead of us. They claim that track doesn’t make that much revenue because people don’t wanna sit and watch all the long races all day. People just come for the speed races and then they wanna leave. So right now I just wanna focus on getting my life together, focus on school when I go back for grad school, then eventually starting a family, you know stuff like that. I don’t really want to run for the rest of my life, but I’ll still work out though!
How does your dad feel about you not wanting to run track? Is he supportive?
He was okay with it. He just wants me to go to school. He’s like, “Go get your Master’s, your Ph.D!”…Whatever dad! [laughs]
What advice would you give to girls who want to make a career out of track and make it to the Olympics?
I would tell them just because I didn’t do it, it shouldn’t stop them from doing it. Different people have different mindsets, so do what you love. You have to have faith in yourself and do everything you need to do to get where you want to go. You have to try. Some people feel like they don’t need to try and will have everything handed to them. Do what you need to do in high school to get those scholarships because college is getting EXPENSIVE. So if you can get a scholarship from track, DO IT. It’s also gonna get harder in college. People think just because high school might have been easy, college is a different world. Totally a different world. It is more competitive, tougher schools, critics, harder coaches…everything. You just have to adjust to it and go for it.
Where do you currently work?
I work at Enterprise in their Management Trainee Program.
What do you do in this program?
The program basically teaches you how to run your own business. It gives you the opportunity to move up within the company because Enterprise does not hire outside of the company unless you start where I started. You eventually learn how to own your own brand and everything that comes along with it.
Is it really competitive to get into?
I mean, yeah; some people get it, some people don’t. I have some friends who have applied who didn’t get in so I guess you can say yes.
Would you like to advance in the company at Enterprise?
I actually plan on going back to school, if not fall 2015 then that winter 2016. I want to go back for Speech Pathology.
What made you want to major in that? It’s pretty random.
[Laughs] Yeah I know. In my undergrad I started off as a business major but it got hard for me doing track too. Then I switched my major to speech communication and I really liked it because I am a people person and enjoy talking to different people. I was so mad though because I found out about the speech pathology program during my last year of school and I was like, I could have done that! So I decided to go back to school for that because I love kids and I would get to work with kids and help them with their speech. My little cousin doesn’t speak and she’s about to be four years old, and I wish I could help her but I can’t yet because I haven’t taken any classes.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I see myself owning my own speech pathology practice because I know once I start grad school I’m going to have to work within the schools under someone and get as much experience as I can. Then eventually I will own my own practice. I always tell my mom, “I’m gonna be the best speech pathologist in Texas!”…or wherever I’m at.
Do you miss Chicago?
Sometimes I do. I miss my friends and family, but Chicago itself? Probably not because I was there my whole life. I don’t miss the cold weather. The summer I like.
What is your favorite thing about Chicago?
It use to be the Taste of Chicago until they started doing the most, but I love the beaches and hanging out along the lakefront.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Never, never, never, ever settle for less and get caught up in a boy. You’ll be like, oh my God, I love this boy. He’s the one for me. We’re gonna be together for the rest of our lives and have babies…NO. Also with friends, when I was 20, I thought everyone was my friend and I would get hurt a lot because I’m so nice. I’m still learning, but now that I’m older I’m starting to see everything more clearly.
Be sure to follow Idia’s moves on Instagram @_idibug or on facebook: Idia Omogiate.