UAA Athletics

This UAA freshman is tearing through the track and field record book

Despite having arrived in the United States for the first time only in January, University of Alaska Anchorage freshman Joshua Caleb is already rewriting the record books for the school’s track and field program.

The 17-year-old has started his collegiate career on a historic tear. Caleb has already broken or played a part in breaking numerous program and conference records, including running the fastest times ever in the 60- and 200-meter races at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference indoor championships in February. Those performances earned him All-American and GNAC Freshman of the Year honors in his first few months with the Seawolves’ program.

“It gets lost in there just how young he is,” UAA head track coach Ryan McWilliams said. “He has got unlimited potential.”

Caleb hails from a small village island called Okrika located in Nigeria’s Rivers State, which is in the southern part of the country. Thanks to a recruiting agency based in Germany called Scholarbook, Caleb was able to land on the radar of track and field programs in the United States and was ultimately recruited by the Seawolves coaching staff.

“UAA has been working with them for 14 years and I’ve had a relationship with Scholarbook for at least 12 of those 14 years,” McWilliams said. “We’ve had a lot of success with athletes that we’ve gotten from there. It used to be mostly German athletes, but now they do everything in the Eastern Hemisphere.”

Scholarbook saw potential in Caleb and knew that for him to realize it fully, he needed to be formally trained in state-of-the-art facilities that weren’t available for him back home.

“They recruited me, they helped me with everything although I had no funds,” Caleb said. “UAA took me in, booked my flight and I’ve been in Alaska since the first of January.”


McWilliams said after more than a decade, Scholarbook knows what kind of athletes will work well in Alaska and the type of personalities the Seawolves in particular look for in their student-athletes.

“For whatever reason, Josh was someone they started working with and they thought he would fit well with us,” he said. “From my side of things, it was an accurate assessment. ... He is a super cool guy that gets along with everyone on the team.”

When Caleb stepped off the plane in Anchorage, the first thing his feet touched wasn’t American soil — it was snow.

“It was my first time seeing snow and I was excited,” he said. “Anchorage looks beautiful with the snow so I like it.”

McWilliams said it didn’t take long for Caleb to grow accustomed to Alaska’s climate during what has been a near-record snowfall season to date.

Running with a purpose

Growing up in Rivers State, he didn’t have something like a standard track to train on, so he ran on grass instead. He didn’t see an actual track in person until he started competing in big meets, and getting used to running between the lanes once he started racing in competitions was something he looked forward to.

“I was really excited to go from running on no track to running on a track,” Caleb said. “My first time using spikes was really a big goal for me.”

Faith plays a major role in his life, as he hails from a devout Catholic family. Caleb said he tries to glorify God every time he steps on the track for a race.

“Everything I do, I put God first,” Caleb said. “I believe in God and have faith in God. Before I run, I pray to God.”

Caleb has been running since he was a child, but it wasn’t until 2021 that he began to take it seriously and not only develop a strong passion for the sport, but also set lofty goals.

“My dad wanted me to practice so that I could become a pro athlete someday,” he said.

Leaving his family at such a young age wasn’t a very hard decision for him to make because of what he hoped to accomplish.

“I was aiming for something and I know doing track and field, I’m going to achieve a lot in it,” Caleb said.

Caleb’s outdoor season at the NCAA Division II level will continue through next month. The GNAC outdoor championships are May 10-11 and NCAA nationals are May 23-25. Once his collegiate season wraps up, Caleb hopes to qualify to represent his country at the 2024 Olympic Games and 2024 World Athletics U20 Championships.

“My No. 1 goal is to be a pro athlete so I need to run fast,” Caleb said. “That’s my No. 1 priority I’ve been thinking about for two years now.”

While making it to the Olympics might seem like an overly ambitious goal for most athletes who have been training seriously for less than five years, McWilliams believes Caleb is more than capable.

“I feel pretty confident that he can hit the times that he needs to qualify,” McWilliams said.


Earning the right to represent his country on the world’s biggest stages would bring Caleb one step closer to his goal of going pro.

“I pray that one day, I will be able to break some world records in big meets,” Caleb said.

A receptive racer

Caleb believes the key to success in track and field is all about being open and receptive to coaching.

“Everything they do, they do for your own good,” he said. “If you don’t listen, you could lose everything you worked for. I listen to my coaches no matter what.”

When he first came to UAA, his principal event was the 400 meters, and while his times were still fast, the Seawolves coaches suggested that he try his hand in running some shorter races, which set him on the record-breaking path he’s following now.

“We knew that he would be quick, so him setting the conference record in the 60 and the 200 wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world, but it maybe was a little surprising that he did it this year and not a few years from now,” McWilliams said.

In his first collegiate races in early February, Caleb’s mark of 6.73 seconds in the 60 meters was just one-hundredth of a second off the GNAC record, and his 200-meter time of 21.43 seconds was just three-hundredths shy of the GNAC record. Both are school records. A little over a week later, he set new conference marks in both those races at the GNAC championships.

He set a school record in the 100 meters with a mark of 10.34 seconds at the Beach Invitational on April 13. And he was part of a school record-setting 4x100 relay team April 11 at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Invite in Long Beach.


Caleb appreciates all the guidance he’s received from his coaches at UAA and plans to keep rewarding their confidence and belief in him by continuing to succeed.

“I know that he has some expectations and he is a really competitive guy, so I’m sure he is expecting to run a certain time and is expecting to win,” McWilliams said. “He is just so young that I try to keep it in perspective that he is already ahead of schedule from our standpoint. We try not to get greedy and lump too many expectations on him.”

The Seawolves hope Caleb can go out and back up what he did in the indoor conference championship in the 60 and the 200 in the outdoor championships.

“I’m more focused on just helping him continue getting better and get used to the new system that he is in here so that he can have more long-term success with us,” McWilliams said.

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.