There is a sense that Maria Umoibang is clear on her way towards achieving the goals she’s firmly set for herself in 2021, with qualifying for the World U20 Championships at the top of her list!
The Secondary school student has shown so much promise since she was spotted by Making of Champions (MoC) while attending the training sessions of her older sister Mercy, that it was only a matter of time before she delivered when it mattered most.
Umoibang, a star in the making for Nigerian Athletics, has been working towards claiming a spot on Nigeria’s World Junior team this summer in Nairobi. Still a 16-year-old, her goals are becoming more real with each passing competition.
She started her season in Akure in January at the AFN All-Comers Meet, going 25.49s in the 200m. Also, Umoibang raced in the 400m, which wasn’t her core event, but still gave a good account of herself with a decent performance.
A little over a month after, the youngster set two Personal Bests (PB) as well in Akure at the 2nd AFN All-Comers meet, 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.
The BetKing/3rd MoC Grand Prix offered her another opportunity to go below 12 seconds and, even further reach the qualifying marks of 11.85s and 24.25s in the 100m and 200m respectively.
With her form and confidence on the high and most of her teammates predicting her going below 12s, it was no wonder her joy knew no bounds when she stormed to an 11.99s clocking on the red tartan track of the Yaba College of Technology Sports Complex to win her heat in the women’s 100m on Day 1 of the competition.
Running in the semis, the young athlete coached by Olympic Bronze medallist, Deji Aliu–whose perfected drive phase has often given her major leads–powered out of the blocks and truly set an unprecedented tone.
At some point in the race, it seemed like she had enough in the tank to match her teammate, Joy Udo-Gabriel, as she was still in contention until the halfway point of the race. She made a push at it, but Udo-Gabriel’s brought her experience to the fore to win it, as Umoibang placed 3rd.
Her position didn’t matter much as a glance at her time (11.84s), was enough to send her into delirium and mentally packing her bags to get ready for her first international competition, having officially qualified for the women’s 100m at the World U20 Campionships this year!
It got better two hours later as she laced her spikes to run in the women’s final B where she lowered her time to 11.81s to finish 5th.
The 200m was next up on the horizon for Umoibang the following day. Still brimming with confidence, she stormed to another PB of 24.51s, as she placed 2nd in her heats behind Praise Ofoku.
Track and field is often measured in progression. Umoibang’s times in the 100m and 200m this season have proved that, and with about five months to go before the World Juniors, her massive improvement in the first three months will surely provide the much-needed momentum into reaching some unimaginable heights at her age.