Nigeria’s fastest home-based athletes over the 100m last year, Enoch Adegoke, and Joy Udo-Gabriel, will seek to extend their dominance of the event in the local circuit in Akure, Ondo State, where the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) All-Comers competition will hold this weekend.
Adegoke ran 10.12 seconds last year to emerge the fastest home-based sprinter in 2019 and fifth in the Nigerian top list for the year. With qualifications for both the African Championships in Algeria and the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan still open, Alaba Akintola and Emmanuel Arowolo, who were impressive at the third Edo State mini sports festival on Tuesday, will challenge Adegoke.
Making of Champions (MoC) athlete, Jerry Jakpa, the second fastest home-based athlete in 2019 (10.32), will also likely be in the mix at the Federal University of Technology (FUTA) Sports Centre in Akure.
Akintola was fourth fastest last year (10.35) behind ‘home-boy’, Arowolo (10.33), who will be banking on the support from students of the University to cause an upset. Arowolo ran the fastest 200m race by a home-based athlete last year (20.37) and will be the clear favourite to win the event.
In the men’s 400m, Ifeanyi Ojeli will be looking forward to becoming the eighth Nigerian man to run sub-45 seconds in the event and the journey to doing that will begin in Akure on Saturday. Last year, Ojeli broke 46 seconds for the first time in his career, running 45.91 seconds in Gaborone, Botswana in April, a geometrical rise for an athlete who ended 2018 with 46.98 seconds.
Ojeli will, however, have Orukpe Erayokan to contend with in Akure. Erayokan is the seventh man to run sub-45 seconds (44.95) in the event and ended last year with a 46.35 personal season’s best, which ranked him the sixth fastest Nigerian over the distance.
In the women’s 100m, pretty Udo-Gabriel will be out to start the year with a statement.The University of Lagos undergraduate student ran 11.44 seconds personal season’s best last year to end up as the fastest home-based athlete. Udo-Gabriel will feel she needs to not only run faster than her 11.42 personal best, but also race into the Olympics qualifying standard of 11.15 seconds.
While the 100m may look like a stroll in the park for Udo-Gabriel, especially with the absence of Rosemary Chukwu, there will be plenty of fireworks in the 400m where new kid on the block, Favour Ofili will want to prove her meteoric rise last year, which culminated in her running a 51.51 seconds personal best, was not by happenstance.
In Patience Okon-George, who is the only home-based athlete who has broken 51 seconds (50.71, 2015) among those in the local circuit, Ofili will get a tough test.Also in the mix will be Amarachukwu Obi, who surprised athletics watchers in Kaduna last year by coming from nowhere to place third in the Nigerian trials with a 52.03 seconds personal best.
Meanwhile, the AFN says Saturday’s race will be used to pick the first set of athletes, who will qualify to run in the first AFN Classics scheduled for Ado Ekiti at the end of the month.
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