* Nigerian U20 athlete Udodi Onwuzurike won a world 200m title on Saturday in Nairobi, Kenya
Photo Credit: World Athletics
By Garrett Zatlin - MileSplit Recruiting Correspondent
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The past year of high school sprinting has been headlined by some of the best talents in the history of the sport.
That talent created opportunities. Both Erriyon Knighton and Jaylen Slade opted to sign on the dotted line with adidas. Both young men, 18 and 17 years of age, respectively, had mind-boggling success as high school juniors.
Then there was Michigan native Udodi Onwuzurike.
The Bloomingfield Hills Brother Rice (MI) graduate had a very good senior season, winning Michigan Division I titles in both the 100m and 200m -- the former time of 10.55 seconds, in fact, came despite a ridiculous headwind of 6.0 m/s.
From there, he would go on to win a Brooks PR championship in the 100m in a new personal record time of 10.23 seconds.
Again, as we said, it was a very good senior campaign.
But few knew the Stanford recruit would venture to the U20 World Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, where he would go on represent Nigeria.
His results would be career-altering.
A MASSIVE BREAKTHROUGH
We've known that Onwuzurike is a talented sprinter, but seeing the Brother Rice High School graduate compete on the world stage and drop a wind-legal, meet-winning time of 20.21 (+05) seconds in the 200m has forced us to reevaluate our expectations. That winning time was part of three performances under 21 seconds over the competition.
For perspective, that result was only 0.01 seconds shy of Slade's U.S. No. 1 mark of 20.20 from earlier this year. But perhaps even greater is the potential return on investment for Stanford, which bought into his talent early.
To be clear, Onwuzurike's signing last fall was a good one. But few could have expected the drastic improvements he made to finish out the year.
By 2022, he could arrive as one of the biggest recruiting steals from the Class of 2021.
In fact, he will enter the Stanford program with personal record times that are faster than the Stanford men's all-time outdoor records of 10.39 (Wopamo Osaisai, 2005) and 20.33 (James Lofton, 1978).
Prior to the 2021 indoor and outdoor track seasons, Onwuzurike had proven to be a respectable sprinter, although his success was mainly confined to the 60m dash and the 200m. At the time, he was a solid talent and worthy of being heavily recruited.
Still, Onwuzurike wasn't someone who had captured national headlines.
Maybe Stanford saw something in Onwuzurike which led them to believe that he had more to offer. Maybe they bought into the idea that he had yet to reach his true ceiling.
Sure enough, after signing his National Letter of Intent with the Cardinal last fall, Onwuzurike began to rapidly ascend to the top of the high school national leaderboard.
During the winter months, Onwuzurike was the nation's top 55m sprinter, was ranked at US No. 2 in the 60m dash and was listed at US No. 3 in the 200m dash with a mark of 20.90.
Based on just that season alone, Stanford was already getting a major return on their investment.
In the spring, though, Onwuzurike began to have national-level success in the 100m and eventually entered the elite tier in the 200m. When all was said and done, one could argue that Stanford ultimately landed the best one of the top non-pro sprint recruits in the Class of 2021.
WHAT HIS SUCCESS MEANS
That's a rarity, mainly because almost every top-level sprinter eventually finds themselves in the SEC or at a few select schools like Oregon, USC, North Carolina A&T, Houston, among others.
But what's even more unique is that Stanford almost never brings in sprint recruits as accomplished as Onwuzurike. Their distance-heavy roster has been the focal point of the program for years.
However, the somewhat recent introduction of new head coach JJ Clark could be altering the identity of this roster.
We saw indications of that last fall, as the Cardinal scored numerous highly accomplished, non-distance recruits on both the men's and women's sides.
Could Stanford be eyeing a future where they place a greater emphasis on the sprints and field events? If that's the case, then they'll be lucky enough to have landed a guy like Onwuzurike.
Why? Many future high school stars will surely recognize and remember the finish of a U20 World Championship. In a way, Onwuzurike could be the poster child for why top sprinters should go to Stanford.
When it comes to recruiting, that's a big deal.
Of course, at the end of the day, producing strong results takes precedence over landing strong recruits -- something that Onwuzurike can surely provide.
If you were to take Onwuzurike's 20.21 result and compare it to the NCAA's 200m national leaderboard from this past spring, you'd find that the rising freshman was tied for the No. 8 collegiate spot in the country.
Simply put, Onwuzurike has developed into an All-American-caliber talent before he has even donned a Stanford singlet.
Admittedly, it would be difficult to imagine many incoming recruits challenging or matching the results that we've seen out of stars like Terrance Laird, Micah Williams, Matthew Boling and a few others.
And in that respect, Onwuzurike is still a ways off from reaching that tier.
But if we were to look back at where Onwuzurike was as a junior, how many of us believed that he would end up as a U20 World Champion?
If this future Stanford ace continues to carry his uncanny momentum into the next few years of his college career, then he may end up becoming the best all-around sprinter in the NCAA.
And who knows? Maybe he'll give Stanford a brand new identity.
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