“Win the day.”Those three words are what motivates Elijah Inuwa, 17, every day.The phrase, most recently made popular by University of Oregon athletic programs, is what he says to himself during a race, and to his Central Academy of Technology and Arts teammates at the track and in school. “To me, it means doing whatever you can each day to get better, no matter what you’re working on,” said Inuwa, noting Oregon would be his “dream school.” “When you run year-round without too many breaks, it can seem like a lot. But when you break it down to a day-by-day thing and focus on all the little things, it seems a lot more manageable.” The 5-foot-10, 165-pound CATA junior won two 2A state titles, three Midwest Regional championships, three Union County crowns and four Rocky River Conference titles.Inuwa won a state title in the outdoor 800-meter race (1 minute, 55.78 seconds). His other state title was earned in the indoor 1,000-meter title (2:37.23) this past winter at the 1A/2A indoor championships.While Inuwa loves to win, he is as focused on racing the clock as winning titles.Inuwa wants to improve his personal bests: 1:53.62 in the 800 meters on May 31; 2:30.31 in the 1,000 meters on Feb. 1; 4:25.85 in the 1,600 meters on April 26; 10:02.2 in the 3,200 meters on Feb. 8; and 16:05.8 in the 5,000 meters on May 20.“I had a great year and was able to run my best in a lot of the big races, and that was a great feeling,” said Inuwa, who also finished third in the Taco Bell Classic 800-meter race on April 11 (1:54.79). “But I am also constantly racing the clock. I know I can win state championships, and I definitely want to win more, but when I go to the big races I am also thinking about time. I’ll take a 1:53.62 and finish second, like at the Champions Tune-Up (May 31 personal best) over a 1:55.78 at states and win it (2A state meet).”Inuwa’s 1:53.62 at the Champions Tune-Up meet qualified him for the New Balance Nationals June 13-15 at North Carolina A&T State University.Inuwa qualified for the emerging elite race and hopes he may also be able to run in the championship race. He also hopes that platform will help him get noticed by college coaches. He said he hopes to visit schools like University of North Carolina and N.C. State University this summer.Inuwa, who plans to run 60-70 miles per week this summer, struggled with some of his training last year after former CATA teammate David Pann graduated, leaving him without a regular training partner on the squad.“It was really tough on Elijah when he didn’t have a teammate (like David Pann) to work with,” said CATA cross-country and track coach Field Miller, a former Piedmont High and Western Carolina cross-country and track runner. “But I think he learned that he has really got to focus on himself and what he is doing all the time. He’s really found a training program that works for him.”Inuwa agrees.“Working on my own was super frustrating at first,” Inuwa said. “But I think in the long run it has made me a better runner because I had to put all my focus into how I feel and how my body feels at every point in a race. I had to think about: Can I keep this pace? Can I close at this pace? Can I get a good kick? I’m a lot more in tune with my body and the way I feel at each point (in a race).” Inuwa and Miller have a small rivalry of their own. Until this past year, Inuwa hadn’t won a Union County championship. Miller won both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter Union County titles in 2004 when he was at Piedmont High.Now Inuwa has three Union County championships: the 5,000 meters in cross-country, and the outdoor 800 and 1,600 meters.“I am super competitive, and I don’t like to lose to anyone at anything,” Inuwa said. “Coach Miller would always remind me that I hadn’t won a Union County championship (before this year), and he had won two. So it was nice to finally win three so he can’t say that to me anymore.”Inuwa’s mom, Kim, was a high school hurdler in California and at California State University-Fresno.“My mom really helps me if I’ve had a bad race or a bad day,” Inuwa said. “She knows what to say to help get better, and she’s always excited about my next race, a good time or whatever I’m doing; she understands. I’m really glad we get to share those moments together.”Inuwa hopes to continue improving in his senior year. He also hopes to help his rapidly improving teammates like Alec Merrill, Matt Riordan and Josh Weirich make their own strides.“I’m very, very pumped about next year already,” Inuwa said. “I feel like I have a lot I still want to accomplish, and that my best is still to come.”
Tuesday, Jun. 10, 2014
CATA runner Elijah Inuwa strives to ‘win the day’
Elijah Inuwa’s 2013-14 accomplishments
• 2A state 800-meter champion
• 2A Midwest Regional 800- and 1,600-meter champion
• Union County 800- and 1,600-meter champion.
• Rocky River Conference, 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter champion.
• 1A/2A state 1,000-meter champion
• 2A Midwest Regional 5,000-meter champion
• Union County 5,000-meter champion
• Rocky River Conference 5,000-meter champion