If the three Lagos Auditions in February gave a snippet of the concept of what Top Sprinter is all about, the Ibadan Auditions took it to an entirely different level.
Over the weekend, over 150 athletes converged at the University of Ibadan from different areas in the South-West region of Nigeria, aiming to impress the three distinguished Olympians: Francis Obikwelu and Glory Alozie flew in from Europe to join Deji Aliu on the panel of Top Sprinter Coaches for the Regional Auditions.
Athletes came from as far as Akure (Ondo State), Abeokuta (Ogun State), Ife (Osun State), Lagos and even Ilorin (Kwara State), whose athletes made an appreciable impact and excelled throughout the weekend. The Top 25 athletes who emerged from the Lagos competitions were also in Ibadan to rub shoulders with their counterparts in the Western region.
If the athletes from Lagos expected to have a cakewalk in Ibadan, they were in for a shocker as athletes from other states gave them a run for their money. The zeal with which all the athletes competed and challenged for the top positions in events underlined their determination to be selected. Day one activities were centred on the heats, but it looked like the real deal as the impressive times recorded showed the competitive edge in Ibadan.
In the Men’s 100m heats, the likes of Onengi Ikoko and Emmanuel Arowolo blazed through their races with very promising times. Onengi, who was the undisputed star in Lagos, came to Ibadan looking to continue with that form and he did that in a time of 10.6s in his heat. Arowolo, who came all the way from Akure just a day after watching the Top Sprinter Lagos Auditions online, ran 10.7s in winning his heat.
The men’s 100m A Final was all poised for a final showdown between Ikoko and Arowolo and it lived up to its billing – it was a tight photo finish for the top 3 positions and the officials had to fall back on video evidence, spending several minutes to determine the winners. Ultimately, Arowolo lowered the Top Sprinter Auditions Record to 10.5s to snatch victory just ahead of Yusuf Hameed and Aderemi Adeyemi. Ikoko could only finish in 8th amongst the 10 finalists in the race.
Arolowo later completed the sprint double as he beat all comers in the 200m in a time of 21.7s, to be crowned the most valuable male athlete of the Ibadan Auditions. Edwin Peter finished 2nd with 21.8s, while Onome Erako placed third, also in 21.8s. The men’s 400m was won by Afeez Abdulrahman in a time of 48.9s, with Seun Olaniyi and Nnanyelugo Osakwe finishing in 2nd and 3rd with 49.8s and 50.2s respectively.
The women’s 100m was an interesting battle between SS3 student Ruth Usoro and University of Lagos undergraduate Moyosore Badejo, who placed 1st and 2nd respectively in the 100m at the Lagos Auditions. In Ibadan, Usoro claimed the fastest time in the heats on Saturday with 12.4s, with Badejo also winning her heat in 12.44s. It was Badejo who had the last laugh on Sunday as she finally claimed victory in the final with a time of 12.15s, pushing Usoro into 2nd place with 12.16s.
Nigeria Junior International Deborah Odeyemi finished in 3rd in 12.2s – a far cry from her PB of 11.45s set at the National Trials in Calabar last year, but she told MoC that since she only recently started her training for the new season and being based in Ibadan, the Auditions presented a good opportunity for her to compete despite her lack of race readiness.
In the women’s 200m, Badejo showed that what Arowolo could do in the men’s event, she could equally do in the women’s. She ran 25.3s to claim the sprint double, but 2nd placed Barakat Kazeem, another SS3 student but based in Ibadan, equally caught the eyes of Top Sprinter Coaches Obikwelu and Alozie after running 26.2s in her Heat on Saturday and 26.1s in the final on Sunday, barefooted the whole time! Yahaya Mojisola placed 3rd in a time of 26.9s.
The star performer in the women’s 400m was Oluwatobi Ashamu, who had just returned from representing Nigeria at the African Junior Championships in Ethiopia the previous week. She won in 55.6s, while Abodunrin Bukola and Edun Feyisora place 2nd and 3rd respectively, with 57.8s and in 59.1s.
The 4x100m relay was the final event of the weekend, and in the women’s event, Badejo anchored the Lagos Top 25 girls to victory in 49.6s, to rubberstamp her status as the most valuable female athlete of the weekend, after winning the sprint double earlier that same morning. God’s Speed Athletics Club took 2nd place in 50.3s, while Kwara Team A were 3rd in 50.8s.
In the men’s 4x100m, it was the same three teams that dominated – Kwara A finished top this time in 42.3s, while Team B for the Lagos Top 25 boys were second in 43.5s, and God’s Speed Athletics Club took the final podium place of the weekend in 44.1s.
By all accounts, the attending athletes had the best times of their lives, after being conveyed from Lagos, Ilorin and elsewhere in buses, as part of an all-expenses paid trip to Ibadan for the weekend to compete at the Auditions.
Many of the athletes did not yet know who Obikwelu and Alozie were, nor were they aware of their achievements when they arrived on Saturday. That all changed on Saturday evening when the Making of Champions: “The History” film, which featured both their stories, was screened to the athletes. By Sunday morning they were all furiously taking pictures with Obikwelu and Alozie and getting their autographs from them!
The train now moves to the coal city, Enugu, where the South-East auditions will hold this weekend and another Olympian, Uchenna Emedolu joining the party. Emedolu will team up with Aliu, Obikwelu and Alozie for the Enugu auditions, looking out for the best athletes in a region reputable to have produced many good sprinters for Nigeria.
In the words of Aliu: “we are getting better and going up a notch with each audition.”
So, Enugu, as Making Of Champions comes into town with the Top Sprinter auditions, are you ready to show us that you can run?