Emeka Agada walks down the hallways of Elmira District Secondary School with an air of self-assurance. The fifth-year student says hello to almost everyone he passes, and all of his peers seem to know him by name as well.
His electric smile, high-energy personality and athletic build all convey confidence, and it’s a confidence that is well-earned. In 2008 he burst onto the high school athletic scene by taking the gold medal in the 100-metre event at the 2008 Ontario Federation of Secondary School Athletics provincial finals, and he finished third in the 200 metres.
In the years that have followed he has claimed several more CWOSSA titles and has represented EDSS at more than one OFSAA competition, yet for Agada, that burning desire to achieve success on the field hasn’t always existed.
It was a conversation with his former gym teacher, Ken Lubert from Park Manor school, that truly sparked the fire.
“I always got by with my natural talent and it wasn’t until Grade 8 when Mr.Lubert pulled me aside and said to me, ‘Emeka, you have talent that most people would die for and it makes me sad to see you wasting it.’”
It was that discussion that convinced the now 18-year-old to turn his athletic career around. He starred on the junior track circuit, but knee injuries in Grade 10 and Grade 12 while playing running back for the EDSS football team, have slowed him since.
With approximately 3,000 of the best high school athletes from around the world expected to attend, it is one of the biggest indoor track events in the United States, and has been a breeding ground for future Olympians and world champions for the past 20 years.
This will mark Agada’s first time at the indoor nationals, and he will be travelling with some of his teammates from the Waterloo Region track and field club Supreme Athletics. He admits he didn’t know if he could ever get back to running track following his knee injuries. “I had knee surgery twice. I tore my ACL in Grade 10 and I stretched my other ACL last season.
“Last year I wanted to get back into track but I gained weight and I was really out of shape, and I wasn’t too sure if I could do it again.”
The veteran sprinter said he still gets nervous when he gets into the starting blocks before a race, but uses a mixture of blues, hip-hop and jazz music to calm down beforehand.
“I breathe in and I breathe out,” he said.
“I love B.B. King.”
He also said the 60m competition is a lot different than 100m: “It’s all about the start, and if you don’t have a good start you’re going to lose.”
Agada is using the indoor season to train and prepare for the upcoming outdoor track season, and ultimately his goal is to qualify to compete in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Spain July 10-15, and he would like to qualify for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. He also has the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero in his sights. “It would be really great to represent Canada.”