By Dare Esan:
Sprint hurdler Tobiloba Amusan will be hoping to become the third Nigerian athlete donning the shirt of University of Texas in El Paso (UTEP), Texas, USA to be crowned National Collegiate of Athletics Championships (NCAA) champion next weekend in Eugene, Oregon.
Amusan has been in phenomenal form since she joined the University last year and the 20-year-old who set a world junior best of 12.83 seconds last April in Texas will be eager to follow in the footsteps of her Nigerian pace setters at the University, sprinters Olapade Adeniken and Blessing Okagbare.
Adeniken, recruited to the University by the world famous Bob Kittensin the 1990s, is the first Nigerian to win an NCCA title as a UTEP student.
The Nigerian claimed the 1992 NCAA Outdoor Championship titles in the 100m and 200m. He is one of only seven athletes in UTEP history to claim a pair of crowns at a single national meet.
Okagbare on her part scorched to a 100m/long jump double at the Championship for the University, completing an undefeated collegiate streak that year. She won the 100m in a wind-aided 10.98 seconds and leapt a distance of 6.69m to win the long jump.
Like Okagbare, Amusan who is the fourth-fastest in the 48 athlete field at the championship, has not lost a 100m hurdle race this year to a collegiate athlete. Her only setback was to Evonne Britton (post college/professional athlete) who narrowly edged her at the UTEP Invitation meeting at the Kidd Field in UTEP last April.
The reigning All Africa Games sprint hurdles champion will be the first UTEP woman since Janice Jackson (2014) to compete in the 100m hurdles at the NCAA Championships.
“It’s something good for a freshman to make it to Eugene,” Amusan told the school's official website after running 13.04 seconds to win the event at the NCAA West Preliminaries at the Rock Chalk Park last Saturday.
“I feel excited because my goal was to just win the race and make it to Eugene. I executed from the blocks though my start wasn’t good enough, but it still went well and I won the heat.Hopefully when I get to Eugene I do well. I know what I’m capable of doing.”
The 2016 NCAA Division 1 outdoor track and field championships will hold from June 8-11 at the Hayward Field at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon with Amusan scheduled to run on Thursday evening and Saturday if she gets to the final.