April 9, 2010
Hopping across the pond, London native James Alaka has wasted little time making a big impact for the Husky track team. And wasting little time is exactly what you want out of a sprinter. The freshman placed in the top-five at the MPSF Championships indoors in both the 60- and 200-meter dashes, and ran the sixth-best 60m dash time in school history at 6.78 seconds. Alaka was one of the top junior sprinters in England and captured the 100-meter dash title at the 2008 England U20 Championships, as well as running on England's 4x100m relay team at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Poland, which finished fifth overall.
This Saturday, Alaka will head to Eugene with the full Husky squad to compete at the Pepsi Team Invitational. There he will get a first look at Oregon's Hayward Field, the site of the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Alaka took some time to talk about his recruiting process, his goals for the rest of his freshman campaign, and the biggest difference between London and Seattle.
Gohuskies.com: How did you end up coming to Washington?
James Alaka: My coach back in England, he always thought it would be good to try and go to America because the education is good and the collegiate system is one of the best in the world. Around a year ago I just started sending emails out to guys I knew. My coach said, `Here's a list of the good schools. Send emails out to these guys.' Coach [Raul] Sheen was the first to reply. I thought this was a good school. We just started talking over email and he made the school sound great. I was ready to commit. I didn't really listen to anybody else because the way that Coach Sheen made this school sound was really good and I knew this was the school for me.
GH: Did you get to visit here?
JA: I didn't even need to visit. I knew this would be the right place. The right fit for me. I didn't even need to visit.
GH: Is sprinting big in England? Do a lot of sprinters come to the United States?
JA: Track and field in general is huge. It's not just in England, but all of Europe. The past few years, a lot of my personal friends have come over here, a guy at [Texas] A&M Gerald Phiry, a hurdler at Georgetown, and a long jumper at FSU. People are scattered all over the place because a lot of people are starting to migrate and realize that the NCAA is where it's at.
GH: Is it tough to be away from your family?
JA: Not really because I used to travel a lot back when I was in England. I think that has kind of helped, especially my mom. It has kind of helped her having one of her sons there. It's not that tough.
GH: Do you feel any pressure to succeed, being a freshman and one of the top sprinters on the team?
JA: Not really because I hear people talk and I heard them say things like, `He's a freshman. He ran this when he was this age, maybe he can run this.' I have my own expectations regardless of what anyone else says. I already have my little plan. As long as I stick to my plan then I am cool.
GH: What are those expectations?
JA: This year my expectations are to cement my name in the Pac-10 and the West Region so people kind of get that buzz and set the foundation for years to come.
GH: What would you say your range is for sprint distances?
JA: I do the 60-meters, 100-meters, 200-meters, and when I am called upon sometimes the 400-meters.
GH: What's your best time in each of those?
JA: 6.78 for the 60 meters, 10.46 for the 100 meters, 21.01 for the 200 meters, and 48.28 for the 400 meters.
GH: What's your goal for next season? Are you going to try and improve on those totals?
JA: I am definitely going to lower those times and get a lot quicker and win some titles.
GH: What are you feelings about running against Phiry and how have you done against him in the past?
JA: The last time we raced, he might not remember this but I remember this very well. I beat him by two hundredths of a second. I am probably going to race him again this weekend in Oregon. We have been talking a bit. It's cool, he is a good friend. It should be fun. He is a fast guy. It's going to bring the best out of him.
GH: Are there any other sports that you are interested in?
JA: I watch all sports really.
GH: Is there a certain athlete that you idolized growing up?
JA: When I was younger I had a lot of people I looked up to; Michael Johnson because he did things his own way. I read his book. People said he couldn't run because of the way he ran, but he ran and broke records in the process. I remember he was the first guy I ever saw run, in Atlanta in 1996. I was like six years old. I always remembered the gold shoes. I like that guy.
GH: How does London compare to Seattle?
JA: The weather is exactly the same, but London is a very good city. The positives are that Seattle has Chipotle. I am a big fan of Chipotle and they do not have that in London. That has kept me fed. Aside from that really they are pretty similar cities.