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Grad-day decision now behind Elijah after signing with UCSD
TRACK STAR6-7-20-13
Emmanuel Elijah works his way to the top of the home bleachers of Sierra Highs Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. He is preparing for next-level competition after signing a partial scholarship to compete for UC San Diego over the summer. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Emmanuel Elijah sat in the shadows of the home stands in between sprints, slowing down just enough to catch his breath.

Music filled the intermission, as Elijah switched out of running shoes and into spikes in lane No. 9.

The fast lane.

It’s been a whirlwind past few months for the former Sierra High sprinter, from the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet to a grueling decision to forgo an opportunity to qualify for the CIF State Championships for graduation.

Here, in this moment, though, on the campus he once ruled, all of that is moot. Elijah is moving forward, focused on the next set of finish lines.

For the last few weeks, while all of his friends have scattered and stayed as far away from the campus along Thomas Street, Elijah has turned up on the track, spinning circles in the warm summer sun.

His future is bright – beach-town, surf’s-up kind of bright.

The decorated student-athlete is headed to the University of California, San Diego on a partial athletic scholarship, and he hopes these taxing summer workouts will ease his transition to the collegiate circuit.

Elijah signed his national letter of intent two weeks before graduation, rescinding a commitment to Baylor University. He had originally committed to Baylor, a Christian school, to pursue his major (clinical laboratory science) and faith.

However, he wasn’t ready to hang up the spikes.

Elijah chose UC San Diego over San Francisco and Redlands for the location, academic standards, and the opportunity to run track.

“There’s an excitement,” he said. “I want to go and see what I can do, what kind of accomplishments I can achieve at the college level.”

The Tritons inherit one of the Valley Oak League’s top all-around athletes; a three-sport star who played varsity soccer, basketball and track.

His athletic achievements glisten. Elijah once scored four goals in a frosh-soph soccer game and was a late-season call-up by then-varsity head coach Jose Montes. He helped the varsity boys basketball team to back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section finals appearances, emerging as one of the VOL’s top defenders.

Yet, he was at his best on the track.

Elijah anchored the Timberwolves’ record-setting 4x100 relay team (42.15 seconds), a fleet-footed foursome that ranked among the section’s best this spring, regardless of division.

He was also the Division IV champion in the 100-meter dash – topping Bulletin All-Area Boys Track Athlete of the Year and state placer John McDonald of Weston Ranch – and the runner-up in the 200.

Elijah stood a good chance of qualifying for the state meet in the 100 after posting the second-fastest qualifying time (10.96) at the Masters meet, but forfeited the opportunity because the finals conflicted with graduation.

“I know I made the right decision. My family wanted to see me graduate and I’m still going to be running,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think I made the right decision.”

At the time, Elijah wasn’t so sure. He said while he was present for the graduation ceremony, his mind was on the 100- and 200-meter finals in Sacramento.

“I wasn’t paying attention during graduation. When we lost the 4x100, I didn’t want to graduate. I just wanted to run the 100, so that I could make it to state,” he said. “I really wasn’t focused on graduation after that.”

That’s not to say Elijah didn’t take school serious. He graduated near the top of his class with a cumulative grade-point average of 4.06.

On awards night for the winter sports season, athletic director Anthony Chapman praised Elijah, a lock-down defender for the Scott Thomason’s championship basketball team, for his prowess in the classroom.

To the amazement of many, Chapman announced Elijah’s very robust GPA for the semester: 5.0 on a 4.0 scale. He is believed to be the first Sierra High student to achieve a 5.0 GPA in one grading period, Chapman said.

“There were a lot of sacrifices and keeping my priorities straight,” he said. “I needed to focus in the classroom and couldn’t do what some of my friends were doing. Somehow I made it work.”

Chapman coached Elijah for two seasons in track before becoming the school’s AD. He believes greatness awaits Elijah in San Diego.

“I don’t even know where to start with him. Honestly, he’s incredible in every facet, academics and athletics,” Chapman said.

“You saw him compete on the basketball court with a tremendous amount of energy and high IQ. One the track, he excelled in sprints and at one point he was a jumper too. We saw that when I was still coaching.

“Put all of that together, and if you talk to him enough, you know he’s got tremendous character about him. He’s the kind of kid who doesn’t come along very often.”