Udodi Onwuzurike, the 2020 West Coast AAU Junior Olympic 100m and 200m champion, will join Stanford University's men's program next fall.
Onwuzurike signed his National Letter of Intent in front of friends and family Wednesday morning at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (MI) High School, choosing Stanford over Michigan, UCLA, Duke, Oregon and USC.
"I've always wanted to get out of Michigan," Onwuzurike, MileSplit's No. 13 class of 2021 recruit, said. "I really wanted to go to a school where they value both academics and track but are still performing in track at a high level. I feel like Stanford is that perfect school for me."
Udodi ultimately will follow in the foosteps others have set before him. His brother, Chiebuka, is a sprinter for Boston University. Due to COVID-19 precautions, Udodi was unable to unofficially visit Stanford before making this decision.
Fortunately, though, he had been in Palo Alto before. When Chiebuka was being recruited, Udodi said, the family visited Stanford almost four years ago. And as Udodi joins Chiebuka in college athletics next fall, he credits his brother for his start in the sport.
"I'm very proud of myself, but I'm also very happy because I know without him, I wouldn't be who I am today in regard to track and field," the senior said. "He's the one who put me on to it. I've always wanted to do what he's doing, I always wanted to be like him. I'm really happy for everything he's done for me."
The Brother Rice senior is one of the nation's top returners in the 200-meter, and was US top 20 in the event as a junior in 2020.
In his first appearance over the last outdoor season, Onwuzurike won the 200m at the West Coast AAU Junior Olympics in an all conditions, US No. 11 effort of 21.12, and also added an all conditions time of 10.60 in the 100m. Indoors, he ran US No. 13 in the 200m (21.15) and earned state runner-up in the 60m for a new PR of 6.84.
"I'd been working during quarantine," Onwuzurike said. "I tried to stay in shape, stay consistent and really push myself for any chance I would get to run, perform and drop my time. I really really really hoped to go under 21 that race. I wasn't disappointed with [my race], but I felt I could do a lot better and it wasn't a reputation of where I'm at as a sprinter."
One of the biggest positives of joining a program like Stanford, Onwuzurike said, is that he will get to train with others who, similarly, can push him in practice and in competition.
"The idea of having someone who's also a sprinter, who's running the same times I am and we're just working together for the same goal - I feel like it'd be awesome," he said.
At Stanford, Onwuzurike will be working with second-year assistant coach Jarius Cooper.
In his first year with the program, Cooper coached his athletes to new school records, personal bests and All-American honors.
However, it was Cooper's Olympic experience that drew Onwuzurike in.
"When Coach Cooper was explaining his past to me, he was saying how he used to coach at Arkansas State, trained someone who ran in the Olympics and used to have a guy that ran 9.9," he said. "He's obviously worked with athletes that have run times that I wish to run one day... So, all the goals that I have for myself, he's worked with before, so I trust him."
Also, Onwuzurike isn't intimidated by Stanford's distance reputation or how new the coaches are to the program.
He said he's ready to embrace it.
"Me being a top sprinter going to a school like Stanford, which some people might not usually go to, I feel it's good, almost like I'm starting a new wave," Onwuzurike said. "Even with Stanford's coaching staff, they kind of cleaned house a year or two ago, so a lot of the coaches are very new. It feels good to be a part of a fresh brand new program and to be a part of something new."
And for Onwuzurike, signing to Stanford
is just the beginning.
"As a kid, I always had dreams of running Division I or running for a big school and hopefully, one day running in the Olympics for [Nigeria]," he said. "I'm really happy that I'm going to Stanford."