The race for the 2018 Commonwealth Games is gradually heating up as some of Nigeria’s home-based athletes have laid down an early marker by churning out some encouraging times in the first three meets of the 2018 Athletics season.
With the aberrant start to the 2018 season, made necessary by the fact that the 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games would be kick-starting in early spring of next year, athletes representing Nigerian Customs, Making of Champions (MoC) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have set the early pace in the fight to represent Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Here, we do an extensive analysis of the Top 10 lists for the 2017/18 Season currently, in the men’s and women’s 100m, 200m and 400m events, taking into cognisance the three meets so far this season – the Abuja All-Comers, Kaduna Golden League, and Abuja Commonwealth Games (CWG) Camping Trials.
Starting off with the men’s 100m event, 2017 Junior Champion Usheorishe Itsekiri has cut a dominant figure in the short sprint as he stormed to victory in the first two meets of the season, handing out defeats to MoC’s Jerry Jakpa – albeit by a hair’s breadth each time.
Itsekiri’s strong start to the season was capped off at the Kaduna Golden League, with victory over former National Champion Obinna Metu in a time of 10.46s. The same race saw Jerry Jakpa set a new Personal Best (PB) of 10.49s, which makes him 3rd on the 100m Top 10 list, while Metu finished 3rd in the race in 10.51s, thus occupying 4th position on the Top 10 list.
However, the highlight of the season so far in the men’s 100m race, took place at the CWG Camping Trials. NSCDC’s Ogho-Oghene Egwero, who was running in his first competition of the season, not only set the fastest time so far by winning in 10.37s, he also handed Custom’s Itsekiri his first defeat of the season.
To put it into context, Egwero, who has represented Nigeria in many international competitions, clocked a 10.38s when he failed to advance past the first round of the last Commonwealth Games. Considering that he has already dipped below that mark, the former National Champion will surely look to his encouraging early form and hope it’s a sign of better things to come heading into the final CWG Trials in February.
With the likes of National 100m Champion Seye Ogunlewe yet to kick off his season, and Tega Odele yet to come into the mix of things, their presence would definitely spice things up a little as they would look to claim a spot on the team ahead of the early pacesetters in the event come February.
The men’s 200m event has been the most unpredictable event so far. This is largely due to the fact that the AFN Golden League which took place in Kaduna had excessive winds (over 2.0m/s) during the event.
Prosper Ogbonna was the athlete to have taken full advantage of the wind as he raced to a time of 20.87s (+5.0m/s) to post the overall fastest time in the event. Jerry Jakpa followed suit in 21.19s in the same heat, which would have been a new PB for him had it not been for the extreme wind conditions.
Officially though, Jakpa still remains the athlete to beat in the half-lap event as he posted a time of 21.28s, the fastest wind-legal time of the season so far, on his way to winning one of the finals at the All-Comers meet in Abuja. Jakpa, who is still only 19 years old, beat Orukpe Erakoyan representing Customs, who finished 2nd in the race clocking 21.38s, and Isah Salihu who came in 3rd with a time of 21.70s.
Also, MoC’s newest recruit Ifeanyi Ojeli who was running in his first 200m race professionally, clocked a stunning 21.21s (+3.9) while winning his heat. Judging by how he ran the race with so much vigour, he certainly is one athlete that could be tipped to pull off an upset as the season progresses, if the more established aren’t careful.
Furthermore, Egwero who opened his 200m season at the Abuja CWG Trials, posted a time of 21.47s – which stands as the third fastest of the season. Even though he didn’t run in the final at that event, it would seem that Egwero could be thinking about doubling up at the Commonwealth Games, if he can make the team in the 200m ahead of MoC’s upcoming duo of Jakpa and Ojeli.
The rivalry between Isoken Igbinosun and Maria Thompson-Omokwe has filtered into the 2018 athletics season. All it took was one race. Yes! One race for Igbinosun to exert her revenge on Thompson-Omokwe after the former pipped her to win the National 200m crown in the 2017 season.
NSCDC’s Igbinosun who so far tops the list for the fastest times for both legal and illegal wind readings, was in good form at the Golden League in Kaduna that she lowered her PB in the 100m in just her second race of the season on her way to clocking 11.48s. She however ran with a tail wind in her first race, which saw her post a wind aided time of 11.42s.
Igbinosun’s time of 11.48s tops the list of the fastest 100m time of the season so far.
On Thompson-Omokwe’s part, she has raced in all three AFN meets in the 100m this season, claiming victories at the All-Comers meet and the CWG Trials in Abuja. Nonetheless, she was still able to run 11.68s, which is the 2nd fastest legal time of the season on her way to winning the 100m at the Trials.
Also, Eaglesight’s Blessing Ogundiran sliced off a massive 0.16s from her PB on her way to winning one of the heats during the CWG Trials. Who knows what she would have ran if only she had competed in the finals of the event which she missed due to a back ache. Her 11.54s run which stands as the second fastest of the season so far would surely put her in contention in the race to meet the qualifying standard ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
In all the races so far this season, 2017 Youth Champion, Rosemary Chukwuma (Kids & Play) has found a way of jostling it out against her more experienced counterparts. Her 11.74s run at the CWG Trials in Abuja where she placed 2nd to Thompson-Omokwe, stands as the third fastest time of the season.
Also, NYG 100m champion Marvelous Asemota might as well have a statement to make this season as her wind-aided run of 11.61s stands as the 3rd fastest time for the illegal wind readings.
With the likes US-based athletes like Blessing Okagbare and Aniekeme Alphonsus yet to officially compete in the 100m, we are definitely in for something spectacular in the short sprint heading into January.
Once again, Igbinosun excelled amongst her peers in the half-lap event in the early race for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Her only race in the event so far this season, saw her lay down the gauntlet for her rivals as she clocked a hand-timed 22.9s.
Legally though, Thompson-Omokwe’s 23.56s which she clocked on her way to claiming the victory at the CWG Trials, stands as the fastest time of the season so far. It is also worth noting that she defeated Chukwuma on the road to victory in Abuja.
Taking the No.2 position of the fastest 200m time so far in the season is Chukwuma. The youngster who won the 200m final at the All-Comers meet in Abuja, defeated the likes of MoC’s Moyosore Badejo (3rd on the list) and Victoria Ojediran to claim the title.
However, the likes of Chukwuma, Thompson-Omokwe and Joy Udo-Gabriel have all churned out encouraging times in the event if the hand-timed results are to be considered.
Talking about laying down the gauntlet, that’s exactly what MoC’s Ifunanya Muoghalu has done in the women’s 400m this season! What a story it has been on her way to achieving this feat.
For a lady who was struggling to orient herself with the shorter sprints, Muoghalu is now making a statement in the one-lap event, having claimed her first victory at the 1st AFN Golden League of the season.
It has been an exceptional transition for the 200 Level University of Port-Harcourt student as she was one of the stand-out performers at the Kaduna Golden League, storming to victory in the 400m while clocking a time of 54.50s, which is the fastest time of the season so far in the one-lap event.
Muoghalu has had an impressive season in the 400m so far, and what even made the victory sweeter was the fact that she chopped off over a second from her previous PB which she set just a week before the Golden League. As it stands now, Muoghalu holds three of the Top 10 fastest times in the women’s 400m race this season.
It was however nice to see the return of former African Champion Folashade Abugan to the circuit at the All-Comers where she clocked a time of 55.66s to win at the meet. Her time however makes her No.5 on the Top 10 fastest time of the season so far.
Rita Ossai (No.2), Oluchi Ifeoma (No.3) and Margaret Etim have also all dipped below the 55s barrier in the one-lap event and might yet pose a threat to notable competitors like Patience Okon-George and Yinka Ajayi in the race to the Commonwealth Games.
Another athlete who seems to be gradually clawing his way into the upper echelon of the quarter-mile discipline in the Nigerian Athletics scenery is Customs’ Bamidele Emmanuel. The talented athlete who has won laurels in the Junior cadre, still remains the only athlete to have dipped below the 47s mark in the 400m this season.
He achieved the feat while running at the 1st AFN Golden League in Kaduna. The victory was even made sweeter for the quartermiler as he defeated his older rival Orukpe Erakoyan (Customs) who remains the last Nigerian to run a sub-45 in the one-lap event. Erayokan placed 2nd in the race.
What also made the race more riveting was the fact that Ojeli lowered his previous mark of 47.90s, which he ran a week before, finishing 3rd in Kaduna with a time of 47.74s. Ojeli, who until this season had only starred in the 2017 National Youth Games (NYG) which took center stage in September, has already sliced off almost half a second from his previous PB in less than two weeks of competition.
Also, with the return of Olympic Bronze medallist Godday James after a two year breather, the veteran athlete would also look to run below his season opener of 48.40s which he posted on his way to winning one of the heats at the Golden League.