All Eyes On Ashe, Akintola, Ofili, Chukwuma As NCAA Regionals begin

Nigerians sprinters Favour Ashe, Alaba Akintola, Rosemary Chukwuma and Favour Ofili are expected to advance to the finals of the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Championships from the East and West Regional Championships which begin Wednesday in Bloomington, Indiana and Fayetteville, Arkansas respectively.

At the Robert C. Haugh Complex at Indiana University this Wednesday through Saturday, a number of Nigerian student athletes led by Akintola and Ofili will be seeking to book their tickets to the final in Oregon, Eugene early next month.

Akintola who holds a personal season’s best of 10.04s in the 100m and 20.34s in the 200m is favoured to be among the sprinters that will qualify for the finals in Eugene.

The 20 year old will begin his campaign in the 100m on Wednesday and, as the fastest man in his heat (3), the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival 200m champion is tipped to qualify for the next round.

Also tipped to qualify is University of Tennessee’s freshman, Ashe who also holds a personal season’s best of 10.04s. Ashe is drawn in lane 8 in heat five while Godson Oghenebrume will run from lane 9 in heat 4.

In the 200m event, Akintola is also expected to go through to the final and pick one of the tickets on offer to Eugene.

He has a 20.34s personal season’s best which makes him the fastest man in the first heat. He will run from lane 9.

In the high jump, Omamuyowi Erhire will be hoping to soar higher than the 2.18m he has cleared this year to stand a chance of making the final in Indianapolis before thinking about making the finals of the 2022 NCAA championships.

Isaac Odugbesan will fancy his chances of making the Shot Put final for the second year in a row even with a repeat of the 20.66m he has put this year.

In the women’s 100m, Ofili is one of the overwhelming favourites to not only make the final of the event at the regionals but also qualify for the finals in Eugene where she will be seeking to become the second Nigerian woman after Blessing Okagbare to win the blue ribband event.

The 19 year old is also one of the sure bankers to make the 200m final. She is the fastest woman in the event in collegiate history following the 21.96s she ran last month and will be aiming to become the first Nigerian woman in NCAA history to successfully complete a sprint double.

Also in contention for a place in the finals is Grace Nwokocha, the Tokyo Olympics 100m and 200m semifinalist.

Nwokocha will run from lane 3 in heat four and has an 11.13s personal season’s best.

At the West Regional Championships holding in Fayetteville, Arkansas, reigning World U20 champion, Udodi Onwuzurike will be one of the athletes expected to make it all the way to the finals in Eugene.

The 19 year old is one of the favourites to make it in both the 100m where he has a 10.07s personal best and the 200m where he has also broken 20.10s (20.09s) this year.

In the 400m hurdles, Ezekiel Nathaniel will be the one to beat as he seeks a place in the Eugene finals.

The 18 year old is the fastest in the entire field of quartermile barrier runners in Fayetteville and one of only three to break 49 seconds this year.

Also at the top of his event is javelin thrower, Chinecherem Prosper Nnamdi who holds a personal best of 81.07m achieved this year. His mark is not only the farthest thrown by a collegiate athlete but also the only one to have hit the 80m plus mark.

In the women’s 100m, Rosemary Chukwuma will also be seeking a place in the bus to Eugene in the 100m and 200m events. The 20 year old holds an 11.05s personal best in the blue ribband event and 22.40s in the 200m. A repeat of both times in Fayetteville should be enough to see her in the finals.

In the 400m event, Imaobong Nse Uko with a 51.24s personal best set early this month and Knowledge Omovoh (52.45s) will be seeking to race to the final first in Fayeteville where they will now focus on making history as the first bonafide Nigerian quartermiler to win the 400m title.

Ruth Usoro will be competing in both long jump and triple jump and the 24 year old is expected to qualify for the finals in both.

The Nigerian triple jump record holder will be hoping to defend the NCAA triple jump title she won in 2021 and she can only do this if she scales through the hurdles in her path in Fayetteville.

She will also be seeking to add the long jump title to become the fourth Nigerian woman to win the NCAA long jump title after Christy Opara (1989), Patience Itanyi (1995) and Blessing Okagbare (2010) and the first to successful complete a long jump/triple jump double.

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