*Will this year’s trial better last year’s?
By Olajide Fashikun
Athletes, coaches and officials have arrived for the All Nigeria national athletics trials holding inside the main bowl of the Abuja stadium starting Thursday through Saturday.
Over 100 athletes were seen sharpening their skills in readiness for the meet. Despite a late evening drizzle on Wednesday, the athletes and their coaches defied the downpour to have a first hand feeling of the balding running tracks.
Over 400 athletes have been invited by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) having met the entry marks to compete in this year’s National Championships taking place in Abuja. Though, there were protests of exclusion which were amended thus extending the list up.
According to the Secretary General of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Amaechi Akawo, “We are set at the secretariat to ensure a hitch free championship. The athletes have started arriving and we have set all the modalities for a successful outing.”
Highlights of the 2016 national trials: African Discus champion Nwanneka Okwelogu won the 2016 trials in Sapele. She claimed the national titles in both the Discus and Shot put events.
Both titles came easy for the Harvard undergraduate after team mates and rivals Chinwe Okoro, Claire Uke and Chioma Onyekwere failed to make the trip down to Nigeria.
The African Silver medallist threw a distance of 52.93m in the Discus event to win the title ahead of Nkechi Chime Leticia (38.35m) and Princess Kara (36.12m).
Okwelogu clinched her second gold in the women’s Shot put, throwing a distance of 16.17m. Leticia settled for Silver once again with a distance of 15.92m, while Eucharia Ogbukwo was the Bronze medal winner with a mark of
Javelin: African Games Javelin champion women Kelechi Nwanaga also recorded one of the best performances in the field events.
Nwanaga set a Personal Best (PB) of 53.52m to be crowned National Champion ahead of Priscillia Zever who threw a distance of 44.47m, while Francisca Chukwudalum settled for Bronze with 42.86m.
In the men’s category, Samuel Adams Kure, got the winning throw ahead of Friday Osayande with a distance of 66.89m. Osayande’s close distance of 66.55m won him the Silver medal while Kenechukwu Ezeofor won Bronze with 65.35m.
Discus: Augustine Nwoye won the men’s Discus final with 54.11m, ahead of Ezeofor’s Silver medal winning distance of 50.13m. Samuel Olawale Olatunji got the Bronze with 49.08m.
Shot put: The men’s Shot Put had a new champion in Chukwuebuka Enekwechi who threw a distance of 19.60m. Awoyinka Olatunde was 2nd with 19.00m while Kalu Eke settled for Bronze with 17.04m.
Hammer throw: Daramola Feyisayo was no match for her peers as she threw a distance of 49.06m to win the national title. Cecilia Inyang threw 47.09m to place 2nd while Omizi Sophiat Tolani completed the podium with 46.77m.
In the men’s category, Ganiyu Monsuru threw 45.57m for the win with Olatunji Olawale taking the Silver medal with 44.69m. Godknows Ekanem was 3rd with a distance of 40.65m.
Triple jump: Olamide Olamigoke claimed his first National title, jumping to a Season’s Best (SB) of 16.70m to win the men’s Triple Jump. The African Games Silver medallist became the favourite for the win after it was confirmed that multiple National Champion in the event, Tosin Oke shunned the trials over maltreatment by the federation.
He won ahead of Felix Obi who placed 2nd with a Season Best of 16.44m in his first appearance at the Nigerian trials, while Kola Adedoyin maintained his Bronze medal position from 2015 with a distance of 15.19m.
Long jump: In the women’s Long Jump, African champion Ese Brume regained her title which she lost in 2015 to Chinazom Amadi.
The Commonwealth champion leapt to a distance of 6.40m, which was recorded in her first and only jump at the competition.
Sarah Ngo Ngoa of Cameroon was the surprise Silver medallist with a distance of 6.25m, while Mercy Abire won the Bronze medal with 6.14m.
Meanwhile in the men’s category, Oluwayemi Blessing of SB Academy jumped a distance of 7.54m to win the Gold. Oluwashola Anota won Silver with 7.47m, while Theddeus Okpara settled for Bronze with 7.43m.
High jump: Thaddeus Okpara won in the men’s High Jump, scaling the height of 2.10m to be crowned champion. Obiora Arinze who jumped 5cm lower than Okpara’s winning mark was 2nd, while Cyprian Oyedele settled for 3rd position, clearing a height of 1.95m.
Three jumpers participated with Grace Anigbata taking the lead position with a height of 1.70m ahead of Esther Issa who cleared 1.65m.
Triple jump: Blessing Ibukun Ibrahim leapt a distance of 13.12m. Uche Brown won the Silver medal with 12.82m, while Mary Otuorah completed the podium with 12.77m.
400 Hurdles: Henry Okorie in the men’s 400m Hurdles final as he reclaimed his national title from Miles Ukaoma.
Okorie got his Season’s Best of 50.13s to finish ahead of Obokhare Ikpefan (50.32s) and Championship Record (CR) holder Ukaoma who came in 3rd in 50.60s.
Amaka Ogoegbunam fought off the stiff challenge posed by Glory Nathaniel (57.86s) and Daisy Akpofa (58.59s) to claim her third consecutive National crown.
Following the absence of Tameka Jameson who recently won a Bronze medal in Durban and Ugonna Ndu, the African Games champion won with a time of 57.61s.
Athletics is Nigeria’s largest sport.