Making of Champions (MoC) athlete Emmanuel Ojeli has carved a niche for himself as the most dominant male athlete in the quarter-mile on the home front, and he proved his mettle once again over the weekend by storming to victory in the men’s 400m at the 2nd Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) All-Comers tagged ‘AFN Evaluation Meet’, held at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) Sports Complex on March 12 and 13, 2021.
Ojeli, who has made Akure a good stomping ground for himself having posted a new PB of 10.40s in the 100m and an even faster PB of 20.78s in the 200m at the same venue in January, returned to his signature event by coming up with a clutch victory in the 400m.
The 400m National Champion is used to leading from the front, but this time around, he took up the challenge after Sikiru Adeyemi had laid down the gauntlet with a stellar run in in the heats in a new Personal Best (PB) of 45.93s.
Running from Lane 2, Ojeli knew he had to stay with Adeyemi for the first half of the race, and once he caught up with him off the top bend, he pulled away to win in a Season’s Best (SB) of 46.04s. The latter came in 2nd in 46.14s with Chidera Nnamani taking 3rd in 47.41s.
Ojeli still had enough time to lace his spikes in the men’s 200m, as he clocked a time of 21.25s in the event, the second-fastest across all heats.
Meanwhile, Jerry Jakpa won his 100m heat and went up against Enoch Adegoke in the semis, covering some ground to finish 2nd in a Season’s Best (SB) of 10.46s. The final wasn’t as fast as many onlookers envisaged, with Jakpa finishing 3rd with a 10.57s clocking. The Nigerian Championships 200m Silver Medallist in 2019 then ran 21.29s to place 3rd in the overall rankings in the 200m, having been edged to 2nd place by teammate Ojeli in their heat.
In the women’s 100m, Joy Udo-Gabriel was full of confidence going into Akure after her impressive victories last time out. She started off on a good note, posting an SB of 11.58s to place 2nd behind Grace Nwokocha in her heat, then retained the same position in her semis, with Praise Idamadudu winning the race. She went on to settle for 2nd position in the final, clocking 11.64s to finish behind Nwokocha.
Junior athlete Mercy Umoibang certainly left Akure as one of the most fulfilled athletes after she earned herself a spot at the World Juniors. It’s been a long time coming for the promising quartermiler who overcame health issues that left her sidelined from the track for almost one year and hindered her from training. Fortunately, her sponsors Niger Delta Exploration & Production (NDEP) supported her medical treatment and well as education, which aided her return to active competition.
Competing in the women’s 400m heats on Day 1 of the competition, Umoibang went under 56s for the first time, clocking 55.85s to finish 3rd in her heat. She was drawn in the B Final where delivered an outstanding performance of gutsy and grandeur on the red track of FUTA, to bolt away to a superb PB of 54.66, thereby qualifying for the World Juniors in Kenya! Her teammate Blessing Oladoye finished 2nd in the same race in 55.06s.
It is no wonder that Umoibang’s younger sister, Maria, was also inspired to set two PBs as well in Akure, first in the 100m where she almost went under 12s, returning a time of 12.07s to finish 3rd in her heat. She then stormed to another PB of 24.73s to win her 200m heat on the second day of the competition.
Favour Ashe, who had qualified for the World Juniors in Akure at the first All-Comers meet, came close to matching his SB in the men’s 100m as he clocked 10.51s in the semis. He posted the same time as his teammate Jakpa in the final but finished one place behind him, settling for 4th in the final that had three MoC athletes.
The third MoC athlete in the men’s 100m final was Gracious Ushie who ran a new lifetime best of 10.61s to win his 100m heat in his first competitive 100m, before finishing 2nd in his semifinal race where he clocked 10.72s. In the final, he placed 6th with a time of 10.60s, shaving off a hundredth of a second from his time in the heats. His teammate, Inioluwa Mebawondu also left Akure with a new PB, clocking 10.90s to win his heat.
Another athlete who is having a steady rise as a quarter-miler is John Clifford. Having set a 200m PB in January, he raced to 21.57s in the heats. It was however the men’s 400m that he produced an impressive time of 47.41s to win his heat, removing more than a second from his previous lifetime best of 48.48s.
After going under 48s for the first time in his career in a PB of 47.87s in Akure in January, Ayo Adeola keeps on improving as he further lowered his best to race to a time of 47.44s to win his heat in Akure.
Miracle Thompson chalked off 0.34s of her previous PB in the women’s 100m Hurdles after running 14.27s to place 5th in a highly contested final. She also ran a new lifetime best of 12.12s in the women’s 100m.
Elsewhere, Moyosore Badejo posted a PB of 56.34s in the women’s 400m while Kelechi Christian came through with a time of 57.47s. It was the first time both athletes were running the 400m competitively. Fidelia Ucheobi and Favour Ekpekpe also ran PBs in the women’s 400m Hurdles and men’s 400m respectively.