Favour Ashe on the cusp of history, seeks NCAA 60m indoor title on first attempt

Usoro to defend triple jump title, Ofili targets sprint double on second attempt

University of Tenneesse freshman Favour Ashe will be seeking to make his history as the first Nigerian man in recent history to win the 60m title as the 2022 indoor collegiate track and field season comes to a close this weekend with the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Alabama.

The two-day meet will be hosted Friday and Saturday at the Birmingham CrossPlex and Ashe will attempt to achieve what his immediate predecesors Divine Oduduru and epsecially Raymond Ekevwo failed to achieve.

Ekevwo came second last year, running 6.54s an the Championship held at the Randal Tyson Indoor Center, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Ashe will make his NCAA debut as the third-seeded runner in the event. The 19 year old holds the third-fastest 60m time (6.52s) by a collegiate athlete in the USA behind Texas Tech’s Terrence Jones whose 6.45s run at the Sports Performance Center, Lubbock, Texas in January is the fastest time in the world so far this year

Oregon’s Micah Williams who ran 6.48s on the same day Jones ran 6.45s is the second fastest.

Ashe will thus need to become not only the third Nigerian to break 6.50s in the event behind Deji Aliu (6.48s) and Olusoji Fasuba (6.49s) but probably set a new Nigerian record to make that history.

In the 200m event, another Freshman, Alaba Akintola of Middle Tenneesse State University will be seeking to become the second Nigerian in three years to win the 200m indoor title after Divine Oduduru who ran 20.49s to win in 2019.

At the C-USA Championship last month, Akintola took home Freshman of the Meet, High Point Scorer of the Meet, and First Team All-Conference USA on the men’s side.

The Nigerian earsed a 17-year-old record in the men’s 200m with a time of 20.72s.

Omamuyovwi Erhire will also be in action for Middle Tenneesse State University on Friday and will be gunning for glory in the high jump event.

Erhire set a new 2.23m personal best last month to come second at the Conference USA championships and he is returning to the same venue to have a shot at history books.

Another Nigerian expected to be in action for his school, University of Alabama is Isaac Odugbesan who claimed his third-consecutive SEC title in shot put with a school-record toss of 20.71m.

Odugbesan is returning to the NCAA indoor championships to make up for his 11th place finish last year at the Randal Tyson Indoor Center, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Jumper Emmanuel Ineh who posted a third-place finish in the men’s long jump at the SEC Championship will be aiming for a surprise double.

The Nigerian posted a leap of 7.87m in the long jump and a mark of 16.24m in the triple jump this season, ranking him third and seventh, respectively, all-time at University of Alabama.

For the women Ruth Usoro will be seeking a place in Nigerian history books as the first Nigerian woman to win a long jump and triple jump double at the Championship.

The 24 year old will also be defending the triple jump title she won last year for Texas Tech University.

Sprinter Favour Chukwuma will join Usoro as the second Nigerian woman in Texas Tech seeking NCAA glory.

Chukwuma set a new 7.17s personal best last month to win her conference title and knows she will have to duck inside 7.10s to stand a chance for a podium appearance.

Esther Isa will be in action for Middle Tenneessee State University in the triple jump event.

Isa took first place in the competition with a personal best length of 13.48m at the C-USA Championships last month, earning her First Team All-Conference USA honours.

She also took second in the women’s high jump with a final height of 1.78m, .01 meters from her personal best.

Isa’s season-best mark in the triple jump is the 12th best mark in the pre-championship ranking.

Favour Ofili will however be the cynosure of all eyes alongside Ashe as she targets a 60m/200m double in her second attempt.

Last year the 19 year old competed only in the 200m and 4x400m relay, finishing fourth in the half lap (22.96s) and first in final two of the latter.

Ofili is on fire this season, particularly in the 200m where she has broken her Nigerian 200m record (22.75s) set last year three times last month.

She first ran 22.71s on February 4 before improving further to 22.61s on February 25. A day later (Feb. 26) she scorched to yet another lifetime best, stopping the clock at 22.46s to place second at the SEC Indoor Championships at College Station, Texas.

The Nigerian is ranked number two in the event behind University of Kentucky’s world leader (22.09s), Abby Steiner.

Ofili will also compete in the 60m event where she is the ranked joint sixth and in the 4x400m relay event.

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