Dubem Anikamadu experienced his “Welcome to the Big Time” moment last May in Charleston.
The Huntley sprinter, then a sophomore, had just finished his Class 3A 100-meters race in the IHSA Boys Track and Field State Meet preliminaries, one in which he ran a career-best 10.89 seconds.
Anikamadu was happy, which is normal for him, Red Raiders coach Jim Rolando said.
“He said, ‘I got one of the best starts of my life. I took five or six strides and looked up and it was like, where did everybody go?’ ” Rolando said. “He said, ‘They were all ahead of me already. One of my best starts ever.’ ”
That likely was what Anikamadu thought about when asked what he learned last year.
“I learned that people out there, they’re fast,” he said. “They’re really fast. You’re not going to win races being lazy. You have to work hard; you have to overcome adversity to get up to par.”
Anikamadu finished sixth in that heat and did not qualify for the 100, although he ran on the Raiders’ 4x100 and 4x200 relays, both of which brought home seventh-place medals. He plans on being one of those “really fast” runners this season and on making the 100 and 200 finals as an individual.
“[State] inspired me to work harder,” Anikamadu said. “I worked the most on acceleration and power. I’m a taller guy, so it’s harder for me to get out of the blocks when I come up. The work I’ve done (in the offseason) really helped me. Right after football season, I got right into the fieldhouse. I started doing form training, speed training, strength, all those things I needed to get my body ready to be fast like the people I saw down at state.”
Anikamadu saw the benefits March 25 when he ran 6.93 and took fifth in the Class 3A 60 meters at the Illinois Prep Top Times Indoor Classic. In the 200, he felt his left hamstring cramping and jogged most of the way. Anikamadu said he did not believe the injury would hinder his outdoor season because he felt the twinge early and pulled back.
“He did a lot on his own this year,” Rolando said. “We can’t do anything officially until the middle of January. We had a lot of open gyms (in the fieldhouse), I know he was out there. He had a group of friends, some not even track kids, going in and getting some work done. He feels he is a little more prepared coming into the season.”
Anikamadu won the 100 in the McHenry County Meet and the Fox Valley Conference Meet, then qualified for state on time, taking third at the DeKalb Sectional. He attended a Nike running camp at Hillsdale (Michigan) University that also served as motivation.
“When you surround yourself with guys who are your quality or better than you, it pushes you,” Rolando said. “That was a big plus for him, too.”
Anikamadu, who is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, started hearing from NCAA Divison I schools after Huntley’s relay exploits at state. He said Illinois, Michigan, Penn State, Brown and Lehigh are some of the top schools that have been in contact.
“[Recruiting] is a really cool experience,” Anikamadu said. “I never thought I would be at this place from where I started from. I’m just trying to take this best as possible, trying to get help from my coach and my dad (Daniel) with what these colleges ask and what they need from me.”
Anikamadu was a backup defensive back for Huntley’s football team last fall, but will not play his senior year. He has a shoulder that has given him problems and wants to avoid injuries. Instead, he will focus on track.
Rolando hopes the Raiders can find runners to team with Anikamadu and Eric Mooney in the 4x100 and 4x200, but realizes Anikamadu’s success at state might have to come individually this year. Last year, seniors Jeremie Allen, Ben Marsh and Trevor Dell’Aquilla occupied those other relay spots.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Rolando said. “He’s still such a raw talent. He’s still a young junior. It’s going to be fun.”