Cassidy Obijiaku celebrated his 17th birthday Tuesday by wrapping up the city high school track and field championships with four gold medals.
Competing in track and field for the first time since Grade 8, Obijiaku won the varsity boys triple jump, long jump and 100 metres, adding another first-place finish by running the anchor leg for his Vincent Massey team in the 100m relay as the icing on the cake of a brilliant birthday performance at UCT Stadium.
"It wasn’t until last week that I realized that I would be doing the city track and field meet on my birthday, so since I was, I didn’t want to lose on my birthday, so I’m happy," Obijiaku said. "The plan was just to try to sweep the field events and then see how the running events went because I hadn’t done them in so long. So it was good."
A multi-talented athlete, Obijiaku has already attracted attention of college football scouts as he prepares for his senior season in the Winnipeg High School Football League this fall. The speedy 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver decided to run track this spring to help improve his speed and says it is already paying dividends.
"Football is kind of what I am gunning for right now," he said. "The only reason I wasn’t doing track in the last few years of high school is because I was doing spring camp in football all the time and didn’t think I would have the time to keep up with (track and field) along with homework and working and stuff. But this year I decided to do track to work on my speed, especially for football, being a receiver. And it’s paid off so far."
Indeed. Obijiaku raced to a first-place time of 11.40 seconds to win gold in the 100m dash, while also helping his Vikings’ 100m relay team come from way behind to finish first with a furious final leg. He hopes to improve upon his times for the provincial high school championships, slated for June 5-7 in Winnipeg.
"I haven’t timed myself since Grade 8 and the last time I did it, I think I was just over twelve seconds, so a big improvement since then," Obijiaku said. "So I am fairly happy with (11.4 seconds). I think by the time we go to provincials, I am hoping to cut that down to eleven seconds even, around there. That would be amazing."
Vikings track and field coach Jason Jones believes the sky is the limit for his young track sensation.
"He came out running pretty flat-footed and I taught him how to get out of the starting blocks and put him in a set of track spikes," Jones said. "If I could compare him to anybody, he runs like a (former world champion sprinter) Donovan Bailey. He is slow out of the blocks, but he’s got end speed like nobody else. He’s pretty special. He’s very, very fast ...
"We’ve had a lot of great athletes, but he’s right up there. He really opened my eyes and I wish I had him since Grade 9. He is in Grade 11 now, but he’s a gifted athlete all-around, and he is going to do really well (in football) once his high school is over."
Close to 100 competitors from Vincent Massey, Neelin and Crocus Plains took part in yesterday’s city championship, dominated by the 75-member Vikings’ track team. Jones said he expects to take about 50 athletes to provincials next month and hopes to bring a few medals back to Brandon.
"I think we are going to do quite well in the relays ... and Ty Rowan should do really well in the (junior boys) 100, Steven Gresl should do well in the (varsity boys) shot put and Cassidy should make finals and then we’ll see. In his first year it might be an eye-opening experience, but he’s got that natural competitive instinct where he doesn’t want to lose."
On his birthday, he never did.