Returning to the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) to compete for the
second time in less than two months, this is one trip Making of Champions’ athletes
will accept with relish, even though the journey from Lagos to Ondo is expected to drain six hours off them.
Emmanuel Ojeli, Jerry Jakpa, Joy Udo-Gabriel and Blessing Oladoye are some of the big
names in the MoC contingent all confirmed to make their second outing this year
against some of the seasoned Nigerian athletes expected to compete at FUTA.
Having set a club record back in January, taking 22 athletes to one competition for the first time since the Track Club became operational in 2016, this time MoC will be going
with 20 athletes, with other athletes sitting this out because of school engagements
and niggling injuries. And judging by the array of good performances from MoC athletes the last time they were in Akure, the bar will expectedly go up as Olympic qualification hopes become intensified.
Starting the year competing in the shorter sprints, Ojeli would delight his fans with what they have craved for, running his first competitive 400m in 2021. Going by how well he has run in Akure, there’s no betting against him bettering his 400m Personal Best (PB ) of 45.91s.
His 200m this season offers a glimpse of his trajectory, and if he ran 20.78s back in January, he could be cooking up something special for the 400m. He has competed twice in the 200m in Akure (20.94s in 2020 and 20.78s in 2021) and has quite surprisingly, never run the 400m there. Interestingly, he will still attempt to compete in both the 200m and 400m this season.
For Jakpa who has had one competitive race this season, this weekend offers him the chance to get more races under his belt. Surely the 200m target of 20.24s is well in his sights. Jakpa went under 21s, opening his season with 20.94s back in January. He will also compete in the 100m, looking to motor on from where he ended 2020. If Jakpa gets a perfect start in the 100m, he will definitely be a challenger as well in this event.
In the women’s 100m, Joy Udo-Gabriel with two round victories the last time she was in Akure, will look to add to that tally to remain undefeated, but most importantly improving on her SB of 11.72s. After resolving to fully embrace the 200m, an event she has had a love-hate relationship with, she will go again and aim for a sub 24s, having run 24.39s in January.
Oladoye and Mercy Umoibang are the regular resident quarter-milers for the MoC Track Club, but they are about to have more company in this event with the entrance of Kelechi Christian and Moyosore Badejo, swelling up what could potentially be a quartet for a 4x400m team.
Prior to this season, both Christian and Badejo competed in the shorter sprints, and although we are barely two months into the 2021 season, they could be chasing a long-term future and maybe fully transitioning to the 400m.
In the men’s 400m, Ayo Adeola who was stunning when he went under 48s for the first time in his career, will return with possibly an even bigger surprise in prospect, and who knows maybe even running a sub 47s to surpass his PB of 47.87s. From being in 4th place coming into the home straight, and then turning it into a victory, if Adeola is in a good position when he enters the last 100m, it will be hard stopping him.
Two PBs already this season, John Clifford is definitely a very much improved athlete
who will be in the mix for some seismic performances as well. Clifford ran a PB of
21.17s in the 200m, having run 48.48s earlier in the 400m, and to think he even had
some blisters which was discomforting and had his rhythm affected. He is surely up
to something big, maybe a sub 21s.
There’s something about Akure that is really favourable to Favour Ashe. Last year, he ran a Junior 100m World Lead of 10.40s, and in his first race in over six months, he opened up with 10.50s, which was enough to secure qualification for the World Junior Championships in Nairobi.
Ashe is uppity about his chances, and it is not something that stems from arrogance. Rather, his confidence drives and spurs him on, knowing there’s more in the tank waiting to be unleashed. This could be the weekend he secures his second qualification, and hopefully meets the 200m standard of 21.38s.
One to keep an eye on is 16-year old Maria Umoibang whose immense talent is unparalleled in Nigeria for someone her age. She has been showing snippets of what she could do at state competitions, and if she carries that form to Akure, she could run under 12s for the first time and possibly also punch qualification for Nairobi.
Umoibang’s older sister Mercy, is also on the cusp of making it to the World Juniors. She ran a PB of 24.83s in the 200m, and has already run 56.38s this season in the 400m. She can definitely run close to 54.85s in the course of the season to stand a chance of also making it to Kenya.
Over in the Hurdles, where Miracle Thompson will continue cementing a foothold in the 100m Hurdles, commemorating her one-year anniversary switching to this event. She has an SB of 14.61s, and now consistently running under 15s, gradually mastering the art of scaling hurdles. Thompson will also compete in the 100m and 200m events, making her one of three MoC athletes who have been entered for three events.
The second MoC athlete who will be doing three events depending on the schedule, is Fidelia Ucheobi. Although registered for the 400m Hurdles and the 200m, she has taken to the Long Jump event, and barring any last-minute change, will compete in all three events.
Gracious Ushie is a surprise entrant for the 100m, going for all the three sets in the sprints in Akure: 100m, 200m, 400m. To his credit and tenacity, Ushie will undoubtedly be the only athlete who would attempt all three events. With the competition being two days, it could afford him the luxury to effectively combine all, maybe now cherry-pick what final to compete in if he makes any of the three.
Meanwhile, Favour Ekpekpe has not competed in the 100m since last season, and he will continue building his endurance running in the 400m, as well as in 200m. Oluwabunmi Lateef and Saheed Jimoh would both also compete in the 400m and 200m, while Gafaru Audu and Inioluwa Mebawondu will compete in the 100m & 200m.
This meet in Akure will afford not just the MoC athletes, an opportunity to get into the full flow for the season, but surely there will be spectacular performances to talk about, maybe an Olympic qualification!