Michael Ohioze literally is on the fast track to success.
The St. Ambrose track and soccer star received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education on May 13, along with additional majors in sports management and philosophy.
Michael came to St. Ambrose from London, England, on a soccer scholarship but he was also looking for an education that would carry him through life.
"I chose St. Ambrose because I figured it was the best for me academically," he said.
He left after etching his name in the SAU record books. Michael was a four-year starter on the soccer pitch, where his 33 goals and 78 points rank sixth and eighth, respectively, on the school's career list.
Those accomplishments aren't what Michael focuses on when he thinks back on his years with the soccer team.
"We've always had potential, and it's been unfortunate that we couldn't fine tune it, but we put the program in a good spot," he said of a building program that had one winning season in his four years, which included a transition to a much more competitive conference. "To me, that's an accomplishment, that I helped take the team to the next level."
Although Michael was recruited to play soccer, he will be better remembered for his considerable accomplishments on the track. When Michael discovered that soccer wouldn't take up his whole academic year, he looked for another athletic outlet, and a friend suggested track.
"I thought I'd join, and do it for fitness. Everything else took off from there," Michael said.
Take off it did. Already a nine-time track All-American, Michael will compete for more national medals at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships May 25-27 in Gulf Shores, Ala. Earlier this month he was named Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Track and Field Athlete of the Year for a second straight year after leading the Bees to a runner-up conference meet finish. In March, he led the Bees to a fourth place, trophy winning, performance at the 2017 indoor national championships behind three podium-earning efforts.
In the summer of 2016 he was invited to compete at the British Championships/Olympic Trials in the 400m dash and finished sixth in the 200m dash at the U.K. Under 23 Championships last summer. And he will compete in the 200 meters at the British Championships/World Championship Trials this summer.
Michael's successes are unrivaled in SAU track and field history, but he doesn't take for granted the people who have helped make them possible.
"Initially people may think my track success is because I'm more individually based, but the success I've had in track came from a relay team with three other guys," Michael explained. "So working on that team where the other guys were putting in just as much work and believed I could do more than I thought I could was crucial. My coaches, teammates, girlfriend and all the support from them made me believe mentally that I was strong enough to do it. Because as much as people see track as an individual sport, there are so many team aspects toward it.
"The whole team has put so much support toward me and helped me set goals. They've pushed me to be better. It could be easy to get big headed and think I don't need to listen to anyone else, but they're always still pushing me to run faster, and we work together to help each other perform better," Michael said.
It is that teamwork, the sense of community, Michael will remember most about St. Ambrose.
"If Ambrose hadn't given me this opportunity, none of this success would have happened," he said. "My time at Ambrose is still changing my life."
For those that have known him since the beginning, it's both easy and amazing to see how much Michael's changed and to cheer him on from the sidelines.
"I remember when Michael first arrived to campus. He was, to me at least, a shy, quiet boy. I was concerned that he would be overwhelmed by the whole US and SAU educational experience," said Cathy Toohey SAU's international student advisor. "But he has really blossomed while he has been here. I just can't believe the success that he has found in athletics and personally. I think he also has grown 6 inches taller since his first year, too!"
Some things don't change, and the ambitious, talented student who began his career at Ambrose four years ago is still setting goals.
"My goal for this summer is to go to outdoor nationals (in two weeks) and run better times than I did last year, and then compete in the UK Under 23 Championships again," Michael said. "If track isn't my full-time job, I would like to work with youth sports or coaching."
Wherever he goes, however many medals he wins, Michael will remember the St. Ambrose support that lifted him.
"I know I'm the one that collects the accolades," Michael said. "But there are so many people that contribute to that behind closed doors."