The race for the men’s 100m title at the forthcoming Nigerian Trials has been thrown open, following the absence of last year’s winner, Mark Jelks. Jelks dethroned former champion, Ogho-Oghene Egwero in 2014 but wasn’t listed in the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) rankings ahead of the National Championships taking centre stage between July 30 and 31 at the Warri Township Stadium in Delta State.
The same venue was used for last weekend’s Warri Relays/CAA Grand Prix. Nigerian athletes will be hoping to run faster times at the 69th edition of the Nigerian Championships, which serves as National Trials for the forthcoming IAAF World Championships in Beijing and the All-Africa Games scheduled to hold in Congo Brazzaville.
Just a handful of athletes have met the qualifying marks for the worlds, and those yet to meet the standard are in a race against time to secure a place in the team. Competing against their rivals from other countries would have provided the perfect opportunity to post impressive results during last week’s CAA Grand prix. Unfortunately, heavy rains put paid to such dreams.
Egwero comes to the championship with the fastest time of 10.15s. The former National Sports Festival (NSF) champion will be seeking to make amends after finishing 3rd last year behind Jelks and MonzavousEdwards. However he will have to contend with Seye Ogunlewe (10.19s), AFN Golden League champion Nicholas Imhoaperamhe (10.23s) and Jonathan Nmaju (10.23s). Fierce rival Obinna Metu comes with a time of 10.28s.
It will be interesting to see how newcomers Olivia Ekpone and Ngozi Onwumere, fare in the 100m/200m, especially in the 200m where Onwumere has clocked 23.34s this season. Ekpone ended the 2014 as joint 5th with Commonwealth double champion, Okagbare-Ighoteguonor (22.23s) on the IAAF Top list. It’s fascinating to note that the pair shares the same time as their Personal Bests (PB) in the event.
Divine Oduduru is the reigning 200m champion and the fastest over the distance this season after clocking 20.80s at the Abuja Golden League. Fast rising one-lap runner, Nathaniel Samson looks in form to create an upset, after finishing ahead of favourite, Orukpe Erayokan at the Akure Golden League.
Samson also ran a faster time than the NSF gold medallist at the Warri Grand Prix, despite being placed in the B race. He returned a time of 46.27s as against Erayokan’s time of 46.52s in the A race. Isah Salihu won the competition last year with 47.2s. No Nigerian athlete has broken the 46s barrier this season, and that will be the ultimate aim for a number of quartermilers this weekend.
Reclaiming the women’s 400m crown will not be a smooth ride for Regina George who has a fight on her hands in the person of Patience Okon George . The Cross River athlete and African Championships Bronze medallist is the fastest over the distance, running a PB of 50.76s in Switzerland earlier in the month, making her the fastest woman since Falilat Ogunkoya ran 50.50s at the World Championships in 2001.
No Nigerian woman has met the 6.70m qualifying mark for the Long Jump event in Beijing, so that will be the focus of the field comprising of the likes of Commonwealth champion Ese Brume (6.61m), Euphemia Edem (6.56m) and Chinazom Amadi (6.30m).
Theddus Okpara jumped to a PB of 7.90m last weekend in the men’s event, and will be aiming for the 8m mark this time around. He will be going against Samson Idiata, Oladimeji Oluwatoyin, Shola Anota and Samson Gbagbeke. Doreen Amata will be expected to win the High Jump without much fuss.
Lindsey Wenyime will be hoping to outpace the rest of the field in the 100m hurdles as this will be her first outing in the National Trials. Tyrone Akins won the 110 Hurdles at the Warri Grand Prix in 13.82s ahead of fellow African Championships medallist, Martins Ogierakhi and Alex Al-Ameen. He will be gunning for his second Nigerian title in Warri.