Athlete Feature 04 - James Alaka - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 04 – James Alaka


We caught up with University of Washington sprinter James Alaka fresh off his recent medal haul at the European U23 Championships in Ostrava, CZE.

tbUSA – Firstly, congratulations on everything you have achieved this season. Being able to successfully combine US and European track seasons is not an easy task. Are you now finished for the season or carrying on towards Daegu or Shenzhen (World Students)?

JA – Shenzen is the next target for me. I will not even be contesting the World Championship trials and so I think that the chance of being selected for Daegu will be slim as a result.

tbUSA – You have made great improvements in the two years you have been at Washington, lowering your PB’s from 10.46 & 21.19 to 10.23 & 20.59 over 100 and 200m. What would you say is the main reason for these improvements?

JA – The enjoyment factor has risen since my move. I feel that moving into the NCAA system reignited my passion for track and field and as they say; ‘a happy runner is a good runner’.

I also think maturity is a factor. Both in life and track. Having to live independent of my family has taught me a lot but also the level of maturity needed to compete against the collegiate athletes has pushed me to raise my game.

tbUSA –  Did you ever consider going to university in the UK?

JA – I did consider attending university in the UK, however it was as a last resort. I applied to both Middlesex and London Met but was hoping I wouldn’t ever have to actually enrol there.

tbUSA – Did you do much independent research about where you were going before heading out to the US and what made you chose Washington?

JA – I did so much independent research before making the move. I looked at nearly every school in all of the major conferences (Big12, Big10, Pac12, SEC, ACC) and dissected their track team and its track history. I wanted to make sure I ended up at a place that was right for me. In the end I chose to attend Washington because it was one of two schools from a big conference that were offering me a full scholarship and I felt that I would fit in perfectly there.

tbUSA – Washington is known for having a climate fairly similar to the UK. As a sprinter, were you not tempted to go somewhere warmer?

JA – I of course wanted to end up somewhere where I could be sure that it would be sunny almost every day, but the opportunity to attend such a school never arose. When Washington showed interest I immediately checked what the weather was like there. Seeing that the weather was similar to London in Seattle meant that the adjustment would be easy for me.

tbUSA – What degree are you studying for at Washington? Did you have to take an SAT test to be admitted?

JA – I am majoring in CHID (The Comparative History of Ideas). And yes, I had to take the SAT.

tbUSA  – How have you coped with the task of balancing academic and athletic commitments?

JA – At first it was difficult, but once I started to use the resources the school puts in place for student athletes to succeed academically it became a lot easier. There are tutors and study guides available which make it a lot easier to get good grades. Also, the athletic schedule is built around classes, so as not to intrude.

tbUSA  – You are now half way through your collegiate career at Washington. Could you summarize how things have gone so far and what has been your most memorable highlight?

JA – Things have been very enjoyable at UW. I have really been enjoying my athletics which is the most important thing. The highlight so far was definitely being the last ever person to do the double at the Pac10 championships (as it is now adding two more schools to the conference and becoming the Pac12). That day in Tucson was amazing!

tbUSA  – Seattle is often thought of as being quite a vibrant city with lots to see and do. What are your opinions on the city so far?

JA – I love Seattle. It is a great city with a great buzz to it. It is interesting beyond belief and having lived there for two years already I still haven’t been to all the worthwhile sites. There is just so much to do, which is awesome.

tbUSA  – What advice would you offer to athletes considering the US collegiate system?

JA – A move to the US should always be considered. The chance of a free education and the opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best athletes is one that is very helpful in someone’s athletic development and social progression. However moving stateside isn’t a quick fix and it is still very possible to be extremely good and stay in Britain. I would say if the opportunity is given to you, look into it and discuss it with your family and coaches and at least go on the visit that the school pays for even if you don’t intend to attend the school.

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