National double sprints Champion Blessing Okagbare has opened her 2017 season with a win at the Texas Tech Red Raider Shoot-Out held on Friday, April 28th.
Okagbare, competing in the women’s Olympic Development 200m dash, clocked an impressive 22.87s (+1.3) to finish way ahead of USA’s Candace McGrone who posted 23.19s, while Cierra White was 3rd in 23.52s.
Her time surpasses the World Championships qualifying mark of 23.10s, and stands as the leading time in the country in the event. It also proves that her absence from the World Relays last weekend earlier wasn’t due to a fitness battle.
In an interesting turn of events, former National Champion Ugonna Ndu also hit the qualifying standard for London 2017 after racing to a Personal Best (PB) of 56.01s in the 400m Hurdles at the Tom Jones Memorial Invitational to erase her former mark of 56.12s set in 2013.
This is a commendable feat by all standards, considering her challenging schedule at the World Relays only a week before where she competed in five races within the space of 48 hours.
Ndu ran in the 4x100m, 4x200m and 4x400m heats, getting to the final of the last two events and qualifying for an automatic slot in the 4x400m ahead of the World Championships. The 25-year old will be proud of her new mark which surpasses the qualifying time of 56.10s.
Meanwhile it was a bitter-sweet performance for Divine Oduduru who narrowly missed clocking a PB by running a wind-aided time of 10.09s (+2.1), to win the men’s 100m at the Texas Tech Red Raider Shoot-Out, which incidentally is his college meet.
Oduduru will not be too pleased about not setting a legal time since opening his outdoor season, as just two weeks ago he ran a season opener of 20.45s (+4.5) in the 200m at the Horned Frog Invitational.
Having competed in both the 100m and 200m this year, it is left to be seen if the Rio Olympics semifinalist is aiming to qualify for both events, and probably do the sprint double come August.
National 400m Champion Kunle Fasasi also got his outdoor season underway, racing to a Season’s Best (SB) of 45.97s to finish 5th overall at the Tom Jones Memorial Invitational.
Fasasi who had an outstanding indoor season which included setting an indoor 300m National Record (NR) of 33.09s and clocking a PB of 45.57s, will be aiming to lower his time as the season progresses, in order to make his debut at senior level for the country at the World Championships.