Freshman Moforehan Abinusawa of Penn track and field is wasting little time in creating a name for herself, putting up impressive times such as a recent 7.37 in the 60-meter sprint semifinal of the Tiger Paw Invitational in Clemson, S.C. last weekend.
“One of her motivations is to be the best version of herself, no matter where she’s at or what she’s doing," assistant coach Chené Townsend said. "That innate competitiveness is something that is unique to her.”
Abinusawa grew up less than an hour from Penn's campus in Fort Washington, Pa., making the university a familiar setting for her. It was even more familiar given that her older brother Olatide, a senior who competes in shot put and javelin, also suits up for the Quakers.
Growing up, track wasn’t her first choice. Instead, her journey to the sport was a little unconventional.
“I initially was a soccer player," Abinusawa said. "I started really young — three or four years old. My dad would get a lot of comments from other parents about how quick I was on the field, and so he entered me into track at 10 and I really enjoyed it, and have done it since."
Speed helped on the soccer field, but after switching sports, Abinusawa found herself to be better suited for track.
“I think when it comes to translating skills, a lot of improvement in soccer came from individual practice,” she said. “I developed a level of independence in bettering myself as an individual athlete, which was very useful when it came to track, where the training is on an individual basis.”
Despite the age difference, both Abinusawa siblings started competing in track around the same time; their different events allowed them to support each other at meets. Both siblings have fond memories of competing as kids, particularly the innocent joy of it.
“From my perspective, as a kid she just enjoyed spending time on track," said Olatide. "It wasn’t about being super competitive, but just about her love for the sport."
As college loomed large, Abinusawa looked to her brother as an example of the opportunities being a Quaker would offer.
“While I am an athlete, I am also a student too," the younger Abinusawa said. "When it came to college, I wanted to go somewhere I could thrive in the classroom as well. Seeing my brother find that balance at Penn really gave me the confidence that this would be the place for me as well."
With her brother already drawing attention at Penn and Abinusawa setting a stellar reputation for herself at the high school level, the college-bound sprinter was surely getting noticed by recruiters.
“The first time I saw her compete, I thought she was built for this, that she belongs,” Townsend said. “She was a class above the kids she was competing with and I thought she would be a good fit for Penn.”
College is always a big shift for students, which was something Abinusawa experienced last semester.
“It’s definitely a step up," she said. "Being at the collegiate level, it is so much more competitive and intense, but also it is a much more welcoming environment with more team spirit than I’ve ever experienced before. I have a wonderful team around me who have taken me in and have definitely made settling into college life a lot easier.”
Team spirit is a feature of the Quaker experience that she deeply values, crediting the bond she shares with her teammates for her positive transition into college. Her teammates have been instrumental in helping Abinusawa build confidence.
Townsend reaffirmed Abinusawa's collaborative ethos, praising her for her friendly and approachable personality, stating she adds a jovial and easygoing personality to the team.
While still new to Penn, Abinusawa is already maturing in leaps and bounds, looking to lend support and gain encouragement from her team while growing with them in the coming years.
"Track is unique — it is individual, but there is also a heavy reliance on your team, especially when it comes to bigger meets and conferences,” she said. “I feel like I have found the balance of being able to shine in those individual moments, but also integrating and lending support to my team when needed, and I aim to do so for the years to come as well.”
Moforehan Abinusawa will next compete at the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships in Hanover, N.H. on Feb. 25.