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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maria Omondi: a leader on and off the volleyball court

By Wayne Boykin

Melinda Wrye-Washington, Columbia College volleyball coach, said her four-year middle hitter, Maria Omondi “is a leader on and off the court.” Omondi has no problem helping her teammates in anything they ask, and they say she is someone they can look up to.

Freshman server Chelsea Browner said, “No matter what I ask, she [Maria] will always take time and stop to help.” Due to her willingness to help others and being dedicated to her team, Omondi was honored with being named Columbia College’s Champion of Character representative. When Wrye-Washington was asked about Omondi, the first thing she said was, “She’s [Omondi] awesome.” Sophomore middle hitter Nicole Murphy said, “Maria carries herself with pride and keeps everyone positive.”

Omondi has only been in America for the past three years, leaving her family back home in Kenya. Omondi has 10 siblings all from the same parents. When asked if this was a traditional Kenyan family, she said that it was big even for Kenya. Omondi truly enjoys her Kenyan roots.

Omondi said she started playing volleyball in high school, but before volleyball she played soccer for one year. She said she stopped playing soccer after her freshman year because she got bored with it. When she watched her high school volleyball team practice, she said she was fascinated with the sport. She joined the practice and soon began playing with the team in games.

The summer after her high school graduation she got the unique opportunity to practice with the Kenyan Olympic volleyball team for the Athens Olympics. Omondi said practicing with the Olympic team was intense, and “it made me step up my game.” It was at one of these Olympic practices that former Columbia College volleyball player, Rose Obunaga, watched Omondi play and told Wrye-Washington about her. It was not long after that Omondi was signed to a full scholarship to play for the Cougars. She has been here ever since.

Omondi has decided pursue medical school after she graduates this spring. Omondi will graduate with almost a 4.0 grade point average and receive bachelor of science degrees in chemistry and biology. Its true Omondi likes America, but when asked if she plans on staying in the U.S. after medical school, she quickly said, “No.”

Omondi said America is nice and a great place to visit but “home is always best.” Last summer was Omondi’s first trip back home since she arrived here her freshman year. She got to stay there for five weeks. Omondi said, “It felt awesome being home,” but she said, “It went by too quickly.”

Photos by Wayne Boykin

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