He Earned a Raft of State Championships and a Stellar GPA. Now Cary High School Distance Runner Anton Idhammar is Ready to Take the Ivy League by Storm.

  • Distance runner Anton Idhammar of Cary High School

    June 13, 2019

    Cary High School graduate Anton Idhammar is “the epitome of the word ‘student-athlete,’” says his AP U.S. History teacher Brian Yerger. “One of the best parts about teaching him is that he knows how to balance his time between athletics and school,” Yerger says of Idhammar, a state champion in cross country and in the 1600 meters. “He’s one of those kids when you teach, you have his undivided attention the entire time. He was just a solid student from Day 1 to Day 180.”

    That’s not easy, especially considering Anton runs upwards of 70 miles per week during peak training periods. And yet he’s not only managed to maintain a 4.65 GPA, he also serves on Cary High’s Student Council, Model UN Club, Environmental Club and National Honor Society. Anton also has spent the past two summers mentoring at-risk and underserved teens at Colorado’s Aspen Youth Center.

    For his hard work on and off the track, Anton has earned a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school with an outstanding track program.

    Surging ahead

    Idhammar’s resume as a runner is next level. He’s a five-time state champion, with three individual wins and two team wins. 

    He won the 4A state championship in cross country with a time of 15:45, leading his team to an overall state championship. He was also named the Gatorade Athlete of the Year in cross country for the state of North Carolina. Anton also is reigning state champion in the 1600 meters in both indoor and outdoor track, with times of 4:23 and 4:15, respectively. His performance played a key role in Cary claiming its first-ever outdoor track team state title.

    In other words, he’s fast. But it hasn’t come easy. Though he hails from a family of runners, he focused on soccer and hockey for many years. Running was just a way to stay in good condition. Gradually, though, running became his main focus.

    Anton says he was “maybe a little bit above average” as a runner when he first started. As a freshman at Cary, he saw the talent of the upperclassmen and knew he had his work cut out. “It’s kind of been a bit of a struggle to get up to where I’m now,” he says. “Definitely my coach has been a big part of it, and also my teammates. “I have good friends who are running in college now who I looked up to. I also have a group of four other seniors - we all work together and are good friends.”
    State champion distance runner Anton Idhammar is headed to the University of Pennsylvania

    'A little extra'

    Cary High’s track coach, Jerry Dotson, says Anton also worked extremely hard to reach his elite status. “He’s very dedicated,” Dotson says. “A lot of people won’t go out if it’s too cold or too hot. He will, or he’ll go home and do a little extra.”

    Like Yerger, Dotson praised Anton’s ability to excel in all phases of life. “He’s done a really good job of balancing life, academically, socially and athletically,” Dotson says. “Which is very difficult for a teenager, especially when you need to actually sleep as well.”

    Anton also has emerged as a leader. Dotson says he relished the team championships as much as his individual ones, perhaps more so. “He’s humble, and he’s good with his teammates,” Dotson says. “And he’s done a good job living with the pressure. There’ve been a lot of expectations and he had to learn how to handle that. That was probably the biggest growth I’ve seen in him.” 

    'Academics came first' 

    Fun fact about Anton: he and his entire family speak fluent Swedish. Anton’s grandfather, Christer Idhammar, hails from Sweden. He founded a management consultant firm there in 1972 for industries such as mining, oil and gas, pulp and paper, metals and cement.

    He moved to the United States and established IDCON headquarters in Raleigh in 1985, and the family has been here since. Anton’s father, Tor, now runs the company. Anton is hoping to follow in their footsteps, so he will pursue engineering and business degrees in college. "Penn just had the best combination of athletics and academics,” Anton says in explaining his choice of schools. “For me academics came first, and of course it’s known for strong academics. And I really liked the vibe, the energy on their [track] team. It just felt right.”

    Anton says the prerequisites to be a top-flight runner – tenacity, work ethic, dedication, discipline – mirror what it takes to be successful in the classroom and beyond. “Running definitely works on certain traits, those same traits can be used basically anywhere,” he says. “Running has been a huge part of my success in other parts of life.”

    'How far he can go'

    Anton’s going to spend three weeks backpacking in Europe with friends before heading to college. “Yeah, I’m definitely somewhat nervous about living in a new city and being kind of far from home,” he says. “But I’m very excited and feel ready.”

    Dotson has no doubt Anton will excel as a student. But he thinks he could become an even brighter star on the track. Dotson says Anton has unusual versatility, capable of running 400 meters all the way up to a 5K, the standard cross country distance.

    He has one more chance to break the Cary High School mile record of 4:10 when he runs the Boston Athletic Association Invitational Mile on June 23. In the 800, Dotson says Anton could possibly shave as many as 10 seconds off his current best time of 1:52. “I think if he keeps pushing like he’s capable of, he’ll be one of those elite people who breaks the four-minute mile,” Dotson says. “The thing that is really exciting is he hasn’t really come close to reaching his potential. I’m excited to see just how far he can go.”

    Cary High School distance runner Anton Idhammar in cap and gown