Two-time Nigeria 100m king,Ogho-Oghene Egwero; Making of Champions’ fast improving quartermiler, Ifeanyi Emmanuel Ojeli and multiple national 400m queen Patience Okon George will headline Saturday’s Athletics Federation of Nigeria All-Comers competition at the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
The meet, the first in the calendar of the AFN this year is the only scheduled event for the athletes before next month’s National Sports Festival in Benin City, Edo state.
Egwero, whose 10.23 seconds run last year at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium in Benin ranks him the second fastest Nigerian in 2020 behind Divine Oduduru (10.10 seconds) also holds the fastest 100m time ran on Nigerian soil in the past year and he will be challenged for the first position on Saturday by Idjesa Uruemu who ran 10.32 seconds in March last year to rank as the third fastest Nigerian for the season and Enoch Adegoke.
Adegoke’s 10.12 seconds performance in the blue ribband race in 2019 remains the fastest time achieved in the event on Nigerian soil since 2017 when Seye Ogunlewe ran the same time in Sapele, Delta state.
The experienced Egwero will however want to lay down the gauntlet early as the man to beat at the National Sports Festival next month.
In the men’s 400m,Ojeli will be the cynosure of all eyes not only as one of the two fastest home-based quartermilers in Nigeria last year but also as the only Nigerian 400m runner to break 46 seconds since June 2017 when two-time Nigeria champion Samson Nathaniel ran 45.23 seconds in Abuja.
Ojeli rose from a 47.74 seconds runner in 2017 to break 46 seconds two years later to become the 29th fastest in the Nigeria all-time list courtesy his 45.91 seconds run in Gaborone, Botswana in April 2019.
With Erayokan Orukpe (46.42),the fastest home based Nigerian last year expected to be absent, Ojeli must spare some thoughts for the duo of Sikiru Adeyemi (47.43) and Atanda Akindele (47.47) who showed great promise last year.
In the women’s version, the expected absence of 2019 World Championships’ semi-finalist, Favour Ofili will not take the shine off the event as Okon George,the fastest Nigerian in the event home and abroad last year and the only one to break 52 seconds will, if she shows up,be the athlete to beat once again.
Last year she ran 51.84 seconds in her first and only race till date to win the 400m at the AFN Test the Track Meet in Benin City and was crowned the best female athlete of the event.
While the duo of Efejiro Idamadudu and Glory Patrick whose 52.76 seconds and 53.85 seconds performances respectively rank them second and third fastest Nigerian over the distance last year and are,on paper the athletes to challenge the ‘veteran’ Okon George for the title of athlete to beat at the National Sports Festival, former junior athlete, Esther Okon could be the joker in the pack.
Okon has been phenomenal in training and she will be expected to transfer those fast times in training to a real competitive stage which the AFN All-Comers represent.
In the women’s 100m,Grace Nwokocha’s 11.38 seconds run may not have been accepted by World Athletics in the top list of performances last year, the Port Harcourt-based sprinter will however be the favourite once again as she will want to prove what happened last year was not by happenstance.
Nwokocha’s time would have been the fastest run on Nigerian soil since Igbinosun Isoken ran 11.37 seconds in February 2018 at the Commonwealth Games trial.
AFN Secretary General, Prince Adeniyi Beyioku says all arrangements for a hitch free competition have been concluded and thanked Honourable Olamide George, the event’s sponsor who doubles as the president of the federation in the absence of the suspended Ibrahim Gusau for providing the opportunity for the athletes to fine-tune their preparations for the Edo National Sports Festival.