Uniondale High School senior Chika Akazi hurdles life’s obstacles


After a stunning state championship win this spring, Uniondale High School senior Chikaodinaka “Chika” Akazi recently detailed her journey as a rising star in track and field, and her future goals.

The 18-year-old Baldwin native, who grew up in a Nigerian family, explained that her early influences were her immigrant parents, Felix Akazi and Yvonne Ogunbayo, and her older sister, Chinyere, who also competed in track and field. Both sisters ran for Leigh Pollet, the girls’ track and field coach at the high school since 1988 and an Energice Coaches Hall of Fame inductee in 2019.

Akazi said she initially viewed track as a fun activity rather than a serious pursuit.

“It was really funny, because Pollet always tells the story about how when I first signed up for track, he’d come pick my sister up, and I’d completely hide and run away,” she said.

Despite her initial reluctance, her competitive spirit soon kicked in.

“I didn’t know any other sport, really, to do but track,” Akazi said. “Track was a sport that anyone could join, so I thought maybe I could do it for fun.”

That lighthearted beginning transformed into a remarkable athletic journey. Her determination grew, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, when running became an outlet, and Pollet soon spotted her enormous potential.

Akazi’s breakthrough moment came in March, at the New York State indoor high school track and field championships on Staten Island, where she won the 55-meter hurdles with a remarkable time of 8.21 seconds, improving over her fourth-place finish in the event in 2023.

“Winning states was one of the biggest memories ever,” Akazi said. “It made me realize that I have a lot of potential that God has blessed me with.”

She has not only become a standout athlete, but also inspired her peers with her Christian faith and dedication. She has also managed to balance the demands of athletics and academics, maintaining a stellar grade point average of 96.74.

“I always took Advanced Placement classes,” she said, “and whenever I had the chance to work on an assignment, I really did it, and I’d even tutor some of the other girls.”

The dedication Akazi has shown to her academic work has contributed to the success she has had on the track, Pollet said. “She’s really smart — it doesn’t hurt,” he said. “It’s her attitude, her drive and her determination.”

Pollet’s mentorship has been pivotal in Akazi’s development, because she has had to train under less than ideal conditions, with the high school track under construction, leaving the team to practice on grass or travel to other facilities. Her success has come despite the fact that she has had limited time to train on a track with regulation hurdles.

“We make the best of what we’ve got,” Pollet said.

Akazi said she has her sights set on the University of Pennsylvania, where she plans to major in pre-med while continuing her track career.

“I look forward to competing for them and sharing the Christian life with others,” she said, adding that she has aspirations of competing at the NCAA track and field championships, which she acknowledged would require “a lot of hard work, a lot of practice and a lot of dedication.”

Pollet agreed, but noted Akazi’s exceptional ability to balance academics and athletics. “What sets her apart is her focus, her intelligence and her drive,” he said.

For Akazi, the track team provides inspirational support. “Track really gives you a community — people to talk to and hang out with — and it gives you a sense of purpose,” she said, adding that it also provides her with a sense of camaraderie that she believes has been instrumental in her development, both on and off the track.