These Nigerian athletes can stun the NCAA in 2019

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Nigerian athletes have proven to be good recruits for US colleges once they start competing in the NCAA circuit, with recent notable examples in Tobi Amusan and Divine Oduduru.

This duo dominated their college peers by being crowned NCAA Champions (2017 & 2018 respectively) in their various events. While Amusan chose to turn pro and is performing highly at the professional level, Oduduru is still in the collegiate system.

Interestingly, there are more of these Nigerian born athletes that showed flashes of their potentials in 2018, and may be ready for something spectacular this season.

Based on this and as the 2019 NCAA indoor season progresses, we’ve compiled a list of top Nigerian student athletes we believe can stun the NCAA this year.

MERCY ABIRE

After two years at Oral Robert University (ORU) competing in the Summit League, Abire ended 2018 on a high becoming Summit League Long and Triple Jump Champion, setting new ORU school records with 6.33m and 13.10m respectively and earning Long Jump Second Team All-American at the NCAA finals.

Now transferred to Louisiana State University, where there are better facilities, stiffer competitors in the conference, and training with one of the best women’s college team, we are surely salivating on the best she has to offer this year.

This best may see her set new personal records, create major upsets at the South Eastern Conference and earn a First Team All-American honours at the NCAA finals.

ODUDURU

Few may argue having had a stellar 2018 season which saw him crowned 200m NCAA Champion and winning 3 titles at the Big 12 Championships he’s already up there and shouldn’t be on the list, we think 2018 was just the beginning of what he has to offer in the US college circuit.

Oduduru, already has his name as Texas Tech school record holder in the 60m, 100m, 200m and 4x100m, and his 200m indoor personal record of 20.18s is 3rd fastest in NCAA history.

Though the 200m is his major strength, more is still expected of him in the 60m, 100m and 200m outdoors which can see him run a sub-10s and sub-20s this year.

Indoors, he’ll challenge for 60m podium placement and 200m title at the NCAA Indoor Championships, while outdoors he’ll majorly focus on stunning everyone once again by retaining his 200m title and perhaps make it one better with a win in the 100m.

You think this isn’t attainable? We’ll suggest you never doubt the man with the “Black man blood” who does everything possible to “die on the line”. He’s done it before, who says he can’t do it again?

ABIKE EGBENIYI

The 800m is not a major strength of Nigeria in world athletics, however Egbeniyi has shown Nigeria can have an international representative in the event soon enough.

The Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) student, caused a major upset at the 2018 NCAA Championships by winning the Silver medal in 2.04.33, only 0.12s behind winner Sammy Watson of Texas A&M. This was after winning the C-USA 400m indoor title in a personal best and championship record of 52.77s.

She has already kicked off her 2019 indoor season on a record breaking note, by producing one of the best performances at the UAB Blazer Invitational, where she clocked a fast 1:27.80 in the 600m which is the 8th fastest time in NCAA history.

Not trying to be over confident, but if she continues to improve as the season unfolds, NCAA may be saying hello to their new 800m Champion this year.

Editor’s Picks

KELECHI NWANAGA

Another event the NCAA’s will witness the impact of a talented Nigerian athlete is the women’s Javelin Throw; and who else to get this done than the National Record (NR) holder in the event, Kelechi Nwanaga.

The 2015 African Games Champion, has made a habit of making an impact in a short amount of time. She did this within the shores of the country and has now extended this dominance in her college, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).

In 2018, as a freshman in the college, Nwanaga set a school record of 51.64m just eight weeks after arriving at the school. Thereafter, she’s shattered this record on several occasions, one which saw her capture the America East Conference title in a school and conference record throw of 53.08m.

At the NCAA finals in Oregon, which was her debut outing, she broke the school record again establishing a collegiate personal best of 55.02m to place 4th and earn First Team All-America honours.

With the meteoric progress she’s made since marking her presence in US, it’s only logical to say she’s a huge NCAA podium contender this season.

RAYMOND EKEVWO

An athlete formerly of ORU, Ekevwo has his name in the school’s college books as the 2018 Summit League 60m Champion and second fastest in school’s history with 6.69s.

Outdoors he ran wind assisted 100m time of 10.24s (2.2m/s) and a personal best (PB) of 20.92s in the 200m, before a hamstring injury cut his budding season off for the rest of the year.

Now committed to University of Florida (UF), the sprints sensation will be training in not just a Division I school, but with an elite league of US best college athletes that are currently the NCAA Champions.

With his speed prowess that’ll be polished by the experienced UF’s coaches and training alongside his compatriot Kunle Fasasi, who knows we may be in for some jaw dropping times and major upsets form this young lad this season.

ANIEKEME ALPHONSUS

Okay, by now you’ll already know ORU has an interest in Nigerian athletes. While Abire and Ekevwo have chosen to transfer from the school, Alphonsus is still a faithful student.

Alphonsus got to ORU in 2018 and immediately gave them the best performances the school has ever witnessed. She became the school’s record holder in the 60m (7.35s), 100m (11.25s) and 200m (23.20s).

She’s also the Summit League Champion in these events, a feat she’s the first to achieve in the school’s history.

This season will be a defining year for her as she’ll hope to qualify for the NCAA finals, where she’ll aim for her biggest career impact in US so far.

 

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