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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Racing for Records: first-year track & field sprinter Karlington Anunagba making waves

Freshman Karlington Anunagba traveled from Lagos, Nigeria and moved to Manhattan with his siblings three years ago. He is breaking WWU track records and is only 17-years-old. Anunagba says his goal is to participate in the Olympics and at some point own his own shoe company // Photo by Emily Porter.

By Andrew McClain

“It’s always been my dream to break records,” Karlington Anunagba said of his track aspirations as he sat in Sam Carver Gymnasium, surrounded by pictures of Viking Hall of Famers.

At 17 years old, the first-year Western track & field sprinter is on the verge of doing just that.

However, Anunagba had already covered a lot of ground before he even had the chance to lace up his shoes as a Viking.

Born in the state of New York, Anunagba is a dual U.S. and Nigerian citizen. He attended high school at Atlantic Hall in Epe, Nigeria, where at 14 years old, he set the school record of 10.7 seconds for the men’s 100-meter. It’s a mark he would surely have improved with more time at Atlantic Hall, but he graduated soon after setting the record and started high school early.

After graduating, Anunagba had some time to kill before going to college. Leaving his parents behind in Lagos, Nigeria, he traveled back to New York with his twin sister, Karen Anunagba. In New York, he spent almost three years training to become a better runner.

“I stayed in Manhattan, so it was always noisy and busy,” Anunagba said. “Bellingham is way different.”

However, Anunagba pointed to that difference as one of the main appeals of Western.

“I chose Western because I wanted to try someplace entirely new,” Anunagba said.

It’s a decision his family, including four sisters and a brother, fully supported.

“I was kind of nervous for him [to go to Western,]” Karen Anunagba said, adding that the distance between them was her main concern.

Despite that nervousness, Karen Anunagba said she saw it as a great opportunity for her brother. Anunagba transferred to Western in January, and his sister said she has already seen him make great progress as a runner.

“He’s getting much faster,” Karen Anunagba said. “It’s fun to see.”

Anunagba said he’s worked hard to see that improvement, but also gives credit to the coaching staff at Western.

“The only obstacle in my way was my running form,” Anunagba said. “I didn’t know how to run properly, so when I got to Western coach Dudley took his time to work with me, and now I’m getting it.”

Assistant coach Eric Dudley spoke highly of Anunagba in terms of raw athletic potential, but also praised the young sprinter for being an avid learner.

“When he was re-learning his running form he took the lessons to heart,” Dudley said. “He would take feedback, think about it, and then ask questions.”

Dudley said it’s a sign of how seriously Anunagba takes his sport. That seriousness extends to his academics as well.

Anunagba said that his goal is to maintain a 3.7 GPA or higher, but he doesn’t think he’s set the bar too high for himself as he seeks his degree in business management.

“I just have to look at my own personal goals,” Anunagba said. “If I work hard, I know I can live up to my own expectations.”

Anunagba doesn’t let that goal keep him from having fun, though.

Dudley described him as being a bit of a jokester and said that he helps keep the atmosphere light when the strain of competition can start to feel overwhelming.

“He’s just fun to have around,” Dudley said.

Angelo Fernandez, a second-year sprinter and hurdler for the Vikings, said he couldn’t agree more with that sentiment.

“The first thing I noticed about him was just what a friendly guy he was,” Fernandez said. “He thought everything was funny.”

The second thing Fernandez noticed about Anunagba?

“This kid is faster than all of us,” Fernandez said while laughing.

Fernandez described Anunagba as having a good head on his shoulders, and praised him for wanting to learn and to become a stronger runner. It’s a desire that Anunagba attributed to his competitive nature.

“I always want to win my races,” Anunagba said. “I don’t even like to come in second place. I always want to be on top.”

It’s the kind of statement that oozes confidence, but Anunagba said he still gets nervous before races. He said he fights off those feelings by putting in his earbuds and turning his music up to drown out the world so he can focus on his goal.

Anunagba has made a lot of mature decisions on his journey, including being strict with his diet and social habits.

Anunagba said he tries his best to eat healthy, including lots of fruit and chicken. That dedication includes giving up his favorite soda, Fanta Orange, in favor of water. He’s also traded out the raging keggers that typically define the college experience for games of FIFA with his friends and going to the movies.

“I don’t party. I focus on track and school,” Anunagba said. “Some people might think it sounds boring, but it’s the way to success.”

Anunagba said his dream is to become a professional runner. It’s a goal that he said won’t come easily, but he doesn’t feel like there’s anything holding him back from trying.

“You just have to disregard all the negative stuff and try your hardest,” Anunagba said. “If you do your best, good things are going to come to you.”

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