Not every athlete can boast of setting a new Personal Best (PB) while running in the heats of a major competition, but that’s what the duo of Rosemary Chukwuma and Oyeniyi Abejoye did when they cruised through the heats of their respective disciplines on the first day of the All Nigeria Athletics Championships taking place at the mainbowl of the National Stadium in Abuja.
Chukwuma is definitely growing in leaps and bounds as she seemed not to break a sweat on her way to chalking off four hundredth of a second from her previous PB while winning Heat 3 of the women’s 100m in 11.50s. Her time was the fastest across all heats.
Also, Making of Champions’ Joy Udo-Gabriel made lightwork of her opponents in Heat 1 as she clocked a time of 11.72s. There were also wins for Linda Bassey (11.98s), Peace Bello-Ososo (11.70s), and Mercy Ntia-Obong (11.54s) in the other heats.
On Abejoye’s part, the 110m hurdler had been bordering on the 14s mark up until the Making of Champions’ Grand Prix where he posted a then Season’s Best of 13.96s. He however went better in Abuja as he stopped the clock at 13.86s, a lifetime best, on his way to winning Heat 2 of the men’s 110m Hurdles.
Bashiru Abdullahi picked up the first qualification ticket in Heat 1 of the same event, racing to a time of 14.34s. Samuel Okon came through in 2nd place, while Alex Al-Ameen placed 3rd.
The men’s 100m heats saw athletes produce some rather interesting times, as most of them continued their quest to dethrone Seye Ogunleye as the fastest man in Nigeria.
It was Emmanuel Arowolo who laid down the gauntlet, racing to a time of 10.44s on his way to winning Heat 6. Ogunleye followed suit with a time of 10.53s. He however seemed to take things calmly, surely not showing his hands before the finals.
Running in his first race on home-soil since announcing himself to the world at the Commonwealth Games, Enoch Adegoke breezed through to win his own heat in 10.62s. Usheoritse Itsekiri (10.51s), ThankGod Igube (10.53s), Alaba Akintola (10.65s) and Ogho-Oghene Egwero (10.49s) were also winners of their respective heats.
In the men’s 400m heats, Samson Nathaniel started the defence of his title on an impressive note, racing to a time of 46.75s. However, it was Orukpe Erayokan who showed the most intent in trying to wrestle the crown from Nathaniel as he clocked the fastest time overall (46.66s) while competing in Heat 2.
Also, Atinaya Daniel continued from where he left off at the last Golden League in Ozoro where he won the men’s 400m final, winning the first heat of the day in 47.07s. Akindele Atanda (47.33), Ese Oguma (49.24), and Isah Salihu (47.06) won Heats 2, 3 and 6.
Yinka Ajayi was in a class of her own as she left Praise Idamadudu on her chase while winning Heat 2 of the women’s 400m in 52.21s. Idamadudu still qualified after placing 2nd, albeit a full second behind Ajayi.
Reigning Champion Patience Okon-George was also as good in her race, as she crossed the line in a time of 52.72s to win Heat 3.
Henry Okorie continued his unbeaten streak on home soil in the men’s 400m Hurdles, racing to a time of 52.12s to win one of the Heats. Gbenga Bakare won the other heat in 52.73s.
The middle and long-distance events produced a bit of a shocker, with one of them coming in the women’s 1500m final. Mamnyer Sange upset the applecart to beat Yinka Bantefa in the event. The former clocked a time of 4:41.38s, while Bantefa had to settle for Silver in 4:42.67s. Philomena Ihekandu took 3rd in 4:42.50s.
Also, Shehu Muazu was shoved out of the medal zone in the men’s 5000m final. Gideon Goyet, Joshua Stephen and Monday Jigak were the athletes responsible for that, with Goyet claiming victory in 14:38.52.
However, there wasn’t so much worry for Sudy Hamadjam as he defended his 1500m title in comfortable fashion.