Nana Ampin is a natural athlete, but his path to success has been anything but natural.
At last Saturday's GMC Track Coaches Invitational, the South Brunswick High School senior triple jumped for the first time since winning a national title for his age group four years ago in England. He soared 42-5. To put that in perspective, that mark would have been the third best in the area a year ago. Long jumping for the first time ever, Ampin sailed 19-5 1/4.
"I didn't even know I was going to triple jump until I got to the meet," Ampin said. "That's the first time I tried it since I was a freshman. Right now, I have absolutely no technique, especially in the long jump. My steps are so messed up, but I'm going to start working on it seriously and I'm expecting big things this season."
Ampin has a goal to leap 50 feet this season. That would be a state record.
Through his young life in and out of athletics, Ampin has experienced more than the average student-athlete.
Ampin spent the first 10 years of his life in the African country of Ghana. When his parents wanted him to better his education, Ampin moved to England and lived with guardians for the next six years of his life.
"That's where I discovered athletics," Ampin said. "I played soccer and had success, I played rugby and had success, I ran track and found success and I played basketball and found success. I won the national championship in the triple jump for freshmen. I jumped 12.91 meters (42-4 1/2). I also played on the junior national basketball team with (current Duke standout) Luol Deng before he went to Blair Academy."
After winning the triple jump competition, Ampin, still in his freshman year, broke his leg playing rugby. After six months of rehabilitation, he broke his other leg playing basketball. When he finally got healthy again, as a sophomore, Ampin became a rugby star.
"That was my No. 1 sport," Ampin said. "I really miss it. There is such a passion for the sport over there."
Prior to his junior year, Ampin moved to South Brunswick to live with his aunt and uncle. His mother and father have moved back to Ghana, but the family maintains a home in New York as well. Ampin last saw his parents during Christmas in New York.
"I've pretty much been on my own since I was 10," Ampin said. "It's really made me a strong person, especially mentally. It was very hard being away from my family, especially when I was younger, but I'm used to it. My parents wanted me to to move to England to get a better education and then to the United States because there are so many opportunities here."
When Ampin came to South Brunswick, he rediscovered soccer and basketball. This past fall, Ampin was a First Team All-Area performer in soccer, leading the Vikings to their first-ever Greater Middlesex Conference/Middlesex County Tournament title. He was also a starter on the basketball team, which won 15 games. Now he's hoping to cap off a successful scholastic career with a big-time track season.
"I came out for track to see where I stand in the sport," Ampin said. "When I did the triple jump in England, I spent a lot of time learning the techniques, but then I stopped after my freshman year. Now I'm excited to get back into it."
Ampin, an honor student, has plans to attend the University of Virgina on an academic scholarship.
"I know I can play soccer there," Ampin said. "So I will contact the coach very soon. I would also like to give track a try as well as basketball."