The sprint trio of Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma and Grace Nwokocha will be looking to see who becomes the first Nigerian woman to successfully complete a sprint double as the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Championship begins Wednesday in Eugene, Oregon.
The three sprinters have qualified to compete in the two sprint events and will also be seeking to become the second Nigerian sprinter to win the 100m title after Blessing Okagbare did in 2010 and the 200m title after former African queen of the track, Mary Onyali who won the 200m event in 1988.
Ofili, the top ranked Nigerian in both the 100m (10.93s) and 200m (21.96s) events is hugely favoured to win both after outrunning her biggest rival, Aby Steiner at the regional championship last month after running heat-winning times of 11.02s and 22.08s respectively.
Chukwuma on the other hand has also improved in geometrical proportion.
She successfully completed the sprint double at the regional championship, qualifying in both the 100m and 200m. In the 100m, she broke her own wind-aided record going 10.82 (+2.6). In the 200m, she crossed the end line at 22.68 (+2.2) – third all-time Texas Tech University wind-aided mark.
Chukwuma will begin her campaign in the 100m from lane five in the second semifinal heat and has been drawn against one of the pre-championship favourites, Steiner who will be running from lane six while Nigeria-born Bahrainian, Edidiong Odiong of Florida State University will run from lane three.
Ofili will also run from lane five in the third semifinal. The Nigerian is sandwiched between Kemba Nelson in lane four who holds a 10.98s personal season’s best (10.85w) and Celera Barnes in lane six who also holds a wind-aided time of 10.82s and a legal 11.07s effort.
Tokyo Olympics 100m and 200m semifinalsit, Grace Nwokocha will also be seeking a sprint double and will begin her 100m campaign from lane six in the first semifinal heat.
The three Nigerians will be hoping to be one of the first two in their respective semifinal heats or be among the three fastest ‘losers’ to advance to the final.
In the 200m, Chukwuma will be the first to compete and has been drawn to run in lane 4 of the first semifinal while Ofili will run from lane six in the second semis with Nigeria-born Irish girl, Rhasidat Adeleke running just inside the LSU student in lane five.
Nwokocha will seek one of the two automatic slots for the final from lane 8 in the third semifinals.
In the women’s 400m, Imaobong Nse Uko, the reigning World U20 champion will be seeking to run inside 51 seconds for the first time in her career and in the process becomes the eighth Nigerian woman to do so.
Nse Uko, who set a new 51.24s personal best in the event this year will run from lane 2 in the third semifinal and will be aiming to either grab one of the two automatic slots for the final or be among the three fastest ‘losers’.
Also competing is Rosey Effiong, daughter of former Nigeria international and World University Games 100m champion in 1993, Daniel Effiong. She will run from lane 4 in the same semifinal heat with Nse Uko.
No Nigerian woman has won the 400m title at the NCAA and Nse Uko could be hoping for some miracles of sort.
In the horizontal jumps, Ruth Usoro will also be seeking to make history as the first Nigerian woman to win the long jump and triple jump titles in NCAA history.
The 24 year old who will be defending the triple jump title she won last year will be aiming for a feat performed by the legendary Charlton Ehizuelen who won the triple jump title in 1974 and followed up with the long jump in 1975.
Middle Tennessee State University graduate student, Esther Isa earned her third trip to the NCAA Championships after taking seventh in the women’s triple jump. Her mark of 13.07m is her second best of this outdoor season.
Also competing in the triple jump will be Grace Anigbata, the 2018 African championship gold medal winner and 2019 African Games champion.
The 23 year old holds a personal season’s best of 13.48m but will need to better the 14.02m she jumped to win the African championship title in Asaba four years ago before she can stand a chance of making the podium.