Sylvania native wins $100K scholarship in Dr Pepper Challenge during Big 10 Championship

Eastern Michigan rower from Sylvania threw 14 footballs through a target in 30 seconds.
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 7:54 PM EST
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SYLVANIA, Ohio (WTVG) - When Synene Abukaram, 20, of Sylvania, stepped onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium last Saturday, she came to win.

“I got one in and then I missed the couple, like, next four, and then I glanced at my opponents like, score. I’m like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. I’m not gonna lose today.’ That’s not happening,” said the sophomore who’s a coxswain on the rowing team at Eastern Michigan University.

Abukaram created a TikTok video to enter the Dr Pepper Challenge after she says her mom talked her into it.

“I wasn’t going to apply. I’m like, ‘Sure, mom. Whatever.’ And then I did it. Then I started getting the views and I’m like, ‘Ok, is this how it feels to do something like my mom told me to? Got it,” joked Abukaram.


I gotta start working on my throws #greenscreen #IDeserveTuitionContest #fyp @Dr Pepper @colts

♬ Sweet Tuition - Dr P & the 23

Dr Pepper then selected Abukaram to compete in the football tossing competition during the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis. She practiced for three weeks at a facility in Sylvania owned by a friend of her family. It was there she honed her trajectory skills.

“Yep, I did a chest pass and I had to use my back for more oomph because I don’t have long arms like other people do. So, I just had to put more oomph into it. My brain, I’m just thinking, like, what people were telling me when I was practicing, like, ‘Higher! Higher! Higher!’ That was just what was going through my brain the whole time,” said Abukaram.

Synene Maria Abukaram won the Dr. Pepper Challenge during the Big Ten Championship
Synene Maria Abukaram won the Dr. Pepper Challenge during the Big Ten Championship(AP)

After 30 seconds of head-to-head competition on national television, Abukaram made a total of 14 passes into the target to win a $100,000 scholarship. She proudly did it all representing her Islamic faith while wearing a traditional Muslim hijab.

“I’m a high believer that representation does matter. So, I think it was really cool that, when got into the front, I got to go on national television. I think it was really cool that young girls got to be like, ‘Oh my God. She looks like me. Like, that’s amazing. Like, I never got to see that representation ever on TV,” explains Abukaram. “One mom, she told me, like, it’s amazing. You inspired my daughter. She’s also on crew. Like, she never thought she could wear a hijab. Until like now. I was like, ‘No way. Like, I did that?’”

It’s a win Abukaram calls life-changing for herself and for those watching who took inspiration from her accomplishment.

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