By Dare Esan: Sprinter Cecilia Francis and middle distance runner ,Abike Funke Egbeniyi raced to glory and global reckoning twice at collegiate meetings in the USA this month as they both came first in their respective events. Francis, coached by Tony Osheku who facilitated her trip to the University of Middle Tennessee late last year, not only won the 55m and 200m indoor events at the Edward Temple Classic in Nashville,Tennessee penultimate weekend, she was also named Conference USA track athlete of that week.
In a press release by Conference USA organisers, Francis was named among three athletes who were exceptional for University of Middle Tennessee at the meet.
The petite Nigerian opened her collegaite career at the meeting in style,posting two first place finishes. She claimed the 200 title in 24.97 seconds in addition to posting 6.91 finish in the 55m.
Francis has thus posted the best women’s collegiate time in USA in the 55m event this season to rightfully earn her spot as the female track athlete of the week.Her time is also the third fastest in the world so far this indoor season behind the USA duo of Thelma Davies (6.83) and
Daija Lampkin (6.89).
Egbeniyi on her part only continued where she ended last season as the Nigerian won the 800m event at the Vanderbilt University Opener in Nashville,Tennessee with 2:05.31 to reatin her status as the fastest two full laps indoor runner in the world so far this year.
Like Francis,Egbeniyi’s admission to University of Middle Tennessee was facilitated by Osheku who was her coach before she gained admission on track schorlaship.
Osheku is arguably Nigeria’s most successful coach since the early 1990s after coaching Falilat Ogunkoya to four consecutive IAAF Worlds 400m final,a 49.10 seconds African record and two silver medals at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
He also managed Seun Ogunkoya to a then 9.92 seconds African 100m record and a silver in the same event at the IAAF World Cup in South Africa in 1998 as well as leading Libya’s Mohamed Khouaja to an altitude-aided 44.89 finish to win the 400m title at the Africa Championships in Nairobi,Kenya in 2010.It was Libya’s first ever medal in the history of the biennial championships.