May 31, 2021

“Once In a Generation” student-athlete Sade Olatoye Earns Medal of Honor


COLUMBUS, Ohio – A once in a generation student-athlete. That’s how Ohio State director of track and field and cross country Karen Dennis describes Sade Olatoye, whose accolades and honors continue to grow as she closes in on the completion of an athletics and academic career that distinguishes her as one of the greatest student-athletes in Ohio State’s rich athletics history.

“Sade is that combination of great athlete and serious student, and she is possessed with a will to succeed,” said Dennis, whose program has won half of its all-time total of Big Ten championships – four of eight – with Sade on the team. “She’s been the pulse of our team and has led us to heights unachievable without her.”

Olatoye, the seven-time Big Ten Conference champion, national champion, five-time All-American and winner of four prestigious post-graduate scholarships, was today named Ohio State’s Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient, along with Ryan Terefenko from the men’s lacrosse team.

The award, given to only 14 male and female student-athletes in the Big Ten each year, is awarded to the respective male and female student-athlete who has “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.” Finalists – Ohio State had nine this year – are selected based on their outstanding accomplishments in the classroom, on the field, and as a leader and role model within their program.

Olatoye was recruited, “relentlessly” according to Dennis, by Ohio State throws coach Ashley Kovacs out of nearby Dublin Coffman High School.

“Between her commitments with basketball, track and field and pursuing a perfect grade point average in high school, it was difficult communicating with her because of her schedule,” Dennis said. “But Ashley was relentless, and that paid off. Sade has become more than a competitive student-athlete for us; she became a leader.”

Olatoye has had an exceptional academic and athletics career at Ohio State. She graduated in May 2020 with a degree in health sciences and has since enrolled in graduate school at Ohio State and is pursuing a master’s in bioethics at the Ohio State College of Medicine. She has plans to pursue medical school … and compete for Nigeria in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

A three-time Big Ten Conference Distinguished Scholar for having a grade point average of at least 3.70, Olatoye is also a five-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, a six-time OSU Scholar-Athlete and a three-time Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Nominee. She has been on the Dean’s List 10 times.

Olatoye has volunteered at sports camps, mentored kids interested in attending college, assisted with Habitat for Humanity and “pay forward” for Martin Luther King Day. She has been an active member and a leader for campus organizations such as SHEROS, Peer Educators, the African Youth League, OSU BAESS and Athletes in Medicine.

Her achievements in the classroom, on campus and in the community have positioned her as the recipient of four post-graduate scholarships:

  • In February 2020, she won the Big Ten’s Wayne Duke Postgraduate Scholarship;
  • Also that winter she was named a recipient of the NCAA Winter Sports Postgraduate Scholarship;
  • This past Wednesday she was named the recipient of the M/I Homes Foundation Award; and
  • Last Friday she was announced as the winner of the Varsity O Alumni Society scholarship.

On the competition fields, Olatoye won her seventh Big Ten title two weeks ago by taking first in the hammer throw with a new Big Ten championships record throw of 68.9m / 226-0. The 2019 Ohio State female athlete of the year and 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year nominee is a two-time Big Ten field athlete of the year (2017 and 2019 indoors) and a two-time athlete of the championships (2017 and 2019 indoors). She is a three-time first-team All-American in the weight throw and a two-time All-American in the shot put. In 2019 she was the NCAA champion in the weight throw.

Joining Olatoye and Terefenko as Ohio State’s finalists for the Big Ten Medal of Honor were Luke Meidel (men’s volleyball), Bernard Melus (pistol), Kyle Seelig (men’s tennis), Tatum Skaggs (women’s hockey), Scottie Seymour (baseball), Jenna Swartzentruber (women’s gymnastics) and Lauren Witte (women’s volleyball).

Olatoye will cap her athletics career as a Buckeye June 9-12 in Eugene, Ore., at the NCAA Championships. She will compete in the hammer and the shot put.