Evanston alumna Margaret Bamgbose could have spent her summer at track meets in Calabar, Nigeria, and possibly Glasgow, Scotland.
However, the Notre Dame star turned down the opportunity to travel to her parents’ native Nigeria to compete for a spot on that nation’s squad for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The Games, a multi-sport, Olympic-like competition held every four years, bring together the former nations of the British Empire. Scotland is hosting this summer’s edition, which takes place July 23-Aug. 3.
Bamgbose, meanwhile, has chosen a more low-key summer. The junior-to-be, a member of the 2014 ACC All-Academic Team who is studying information technology management, has been in South Bend, Indiana, taking classes and doing light training.
Earlier this week, Bamgbose said she was enjoying some downtime after a season which included an All-American performance at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and her debut at the USA Track & Field Championships.
“It’s nice to have some time to relax after a really long season,” Bamgbose said. “I think it was a successful season and I’m happy how it turned out at NCAAs.”
On June 13 at the NCAA Championships at Oregon’s iconic Hayward Field, Bamgbose finished sixth in the finals of the 400 meters with a personal-best time of 51.72 seconds. It would have been a school record except teammate Michelle Brown, a senior, ran a 51.70 and finished fifth.
Bamgbose, who won the 300 hurdles and was second in the 200 at the 2012 IHSA state meet, said she and Brown had been instrumental in each other’s success.
“It makes a huge difference to have a training partner at your same level,” Bamgbose said. “Usually [Brown and I are] in the same heat. Every week we seemed to switch off. I’d win, then she’d win. It’s nice to have someone pushing you, and I think she would say the same.”
Bamgbose did have some disappointment at the NCAAs. Anchoring the 4×400 relay in the semifinal third heat, she lost hold of the baton, and the Irish team, which also included Brown, senior Megan Yanik and junior Amber Lalla, was disqualified.
A few weeks later, Bamgbose traveled to Sacramento, California, for the USA Championships. The event brought together the nation’s best professional and amateur runners.
Competing in the 400, Bamgbose was in the same preliminary heat as Sanya Richards-Ross, who won the gold medal in that event at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Richards-Ross ended up winning the event, and Bamgbose did not reach the finals. But Bamgbose said the experience was an eye-opener and a big step in her career.
“It was a great experience running against Olympians,” she said. “I was star-struck at first. But I think going there was good for me, just running against really talented people. It wasn’t my best [performance], but running against those girls was great.”
Some day, Bamgbose could find herself running against the USA’s best while wearing the green of Nigeria. Though born in the States, she qualifies for the African nation’s team through her parents, Sunday and Afusatu, who are from the southwest Nigerian city of Abeokuta.
Bamgbose said the request to attend the Nigerian trials came from a man working on behalf of that country’ athletics federation, who first contacted the Notre Dame coaching staff. However, the call was made around the time of the NCAA Championships, which left very little time to work out logistics. The trials themselves fell just days after the USA Championships, and Bamgbose already had made plans for summer school.
But the door was left open for future opportunities, including next summer’s World Track Championships in Beijing.
“My parents were really excited,” Bamgbose said. “[Evanston girls track coach Fenton Gunter] and I had been talking about the future and possibly considering running for Nigeria. This was a great opportunity to get on their radar and have an experience with their team.”