The Sports Complex of the Delta State Polytechnic in Ozoro was a beehive of activity on Thursday, June 7th, as the National U-20 Trials kicked off in the quest to select the Nigerian team to a number of international competitions this year including the IAAF World U-20 Championships in Finland, the African Youth Games in Algeria, and Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
The athletes settled into their events after the screening exercise which took place in the morning, as competition commenced with the women’s Discus throw and women’s 100m heats.
Making of Champions (MoC) athlete Joy Udo-Gabriel clocked the overall fastest time of 11.66s in the first round, dominating Heat 4 which turned out to be a final of some sorts as she went against the talented duo of Rosemary Chukwuma of Kids and Play (11.76s), and Team Blessed’s Blessing Ogundiran (11.79s).
Heat 1 was won by Nzubechi Nwokocha in 11.98s, while Excel Bama (12.20s) was the woman to beat in Heat 2. Heat 3 was taken by Marvelous Asemota in 11.94s, while MoC’s Chiamaka Egbochinam followed in a Personal Best (PB) of 11.95s.
Just as she did in the heats, Udo-Gabriel, who is a Commonwealth Games Bronze medallist in the 4x100m, clocked the fastest time in the semis as she raced to victory in Heat 1 with a time of 11.61s. She finished ahead of Ogundiran (11.75s) and Nwokocha (11.81s), as Egbochinam smashed her PB for the second time today in 4th place, with an improved time of 11.88s.
Chukwuma, also a Gold Coast 2018 Bronze medallist, took the second semifinal race in 11.67s, and qualified for Friday’s final alongside Asemota (11.76s), Oluwateniolafunmi Fadahunsi (12.04s) and Knowledge Omovoh (12.07s).
Gershon Omubo was the fastest man on the field on Thursday as he dominated the preliminaries, and then went on to clock a time of 10.47s – the overall fastest time in the semis, while racing in Heat 3. Due to the swiftness of the race, the Top 4 finishers in that heat qualified for the final, as he was joined by Godson Oghenebrume (10.68s), Oche Emmanuel (10.71s), and Meshack Akpeki (10.75s).
Other qualifiers for Friday’s final include Orelaja Agbolade (10.71s) and Nsikak Akpan (10.73s) who finished 1st and 2nd respectively in Heat 1 of the semifinals, and Alaba Akintola (10.65s) and Thompson Saturday (10.73s) who were the Top 2 finishers in Heat 2.
The men’s High Jump also provided one of the highlights of the day as an interesting contest played out between University of Ibadan’s Cyprian Oyedele and Delta State’s Jeffry Emeka, with both athletes clearing a height of 2.05m, although the former was awarded the victory. Another Delta State jumper, Ehihire Omamochovwi settled for 3rd with a clearance of 1.90m.
The men and women’s 400m heats also took place on Thursday, and Cross River’s Shedrack Akpeki had the overall fastest time of 48.82s, having competed in Heat 6. Nsikak Okon had the second fastest time overall of 49.02s in Heat 2, while Jeremiah Nathaniel, younger sibling of Glory and Samson, clocked the 3rd fastest time of 49.20s while competing in Heat 4.
Both Blessing Ovwighoadjebre and Abasiono Akpan respectively dominated Heats 1 and 2 of the Women’s 400m with a time of 55.09s, which was the fastest time in the heats, while Knowledge Omovoh won Heat 3 in 55.26s, and Tracy Idugboe took the win in Heat 4 with a time of 57.00s.
Vivian Akunna was the woman to beat in the 100m Hurdles final where she crossed the line in 14.77s to finish ahead of Victoria Adubi and Peace Bello-Ososo, who returned times of 14.83s and 16.69s respectively.
Abasiono Akpan snatched the victory in the women’s 400m Hurdles with a time of 59.89s, with Joy Abu (60.61s) and Esther Akinde (65.17s) following.
David Olowookere topped the list of qualified athletes for the final of the men’s 400m Hurdles after outrunning the rest of the field in Heat 2 to win in 53.83s. Other finalists include Ismail Mohammed (54.51s), Udoh Edidiong (55.58s), Ndikponke Okure (56.84s), Simeon Udofia (57.04s), Gracious Ushie (59.98s), Isaac Akpan (59.94s), and Adams Lawal (60.01s).
Hamid Sambo and Oluwadamilola Adereti emerged National U-20 Champions in the men and women’s 1500m race, with the former taking the title in 4:00.23, while the latter crossed the line in 5:10.86.
Princess Kara was the woman to beat in the Discus throw final as she secured the win with a best throw of 44.38m to finish ahead of Esther Osisike (40.02m) and Onome Ogbeni (34.46m).
In the men’s event, it was Udugba Edesiri who held sway with his distance of 34.05m, while Osisike took the win in the women’s Hammer throw with a mark of 35.24m.