MIT junior Princess Imoukhuede has loved throwing the shot put since she was in third grade. “I’ve always had a knack for it,” says this young woman, who at age 8 could hurl the metal ball 20 feet.

She is now captain of the women’s varsity track and field team, where she throws the shot put, weight, hammer, and discus. “She’s the best weight thrower we ever had in track and field,” says Roger Crosley, MIT’s director of sports information, adding that last year she was the team’s leading scorer.

Freshman year she earned Eastern College Athletic Conference and all-New England honors. Last year, she was the first MIT woman to qualify for the National College Athletics Association weight throw competition, where she placed ninth. And also last year she was named MIT’s Rookie of the Year.

The 20-year-old student from Matteson, Illinois, who is majoring in chemical engineering, says the most valuable lesson she has learned at MIT has been to want the best for others. It is a lesson she learned not in the classroom, but on the field, she says.

“I used to play other sports, and it was all about competition and beating the other team. Being on this team has taught me not to compete against others, but rather to compete against the tape measure.

“Now, people who are my competitors feel more like my friends. Just last week, a competitor saw me throwing the shot put and offered me some pointers. I got better marks that day because of her. That felt great.

“Athletics has really added a lot to my life. It has taught me the true meaning of teamwork.

“Coming together, encouraging one another, and not only cheering for your teammates but for your opponents, teaches you community spirit. You’re hoping that everybody does their best and becomes the best athlete that they can be. You don’t learn this just by going to class.”