This is the second piece that Deji Ogeyingbo asked me to get this piece up ASAP, and he was right! Tennessee Vol Favour Ashe is burning up the track as the collegiate sport builds up to the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Enjoy Deji’s feature on Nigeria’s Favour Ashe, and his rise to sprint stardom as a collegiate athlete at the University of Tennessee!
Favour Ashe. Your SEC Male Freshman of the Week! pic.twitter.com/jzygOvGcCU
— Tennessee Track & Field/XC (@Vol_Track) February 1, 2022
Favour Ashe: Nigeria’s sprinting gem hoping to usurp Coleman’s records in the NCAA
One of the hallmarks of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the incredible number of talents that come through the radar every single season. It’s an oven that cooks the best of athletes as it prepares them for the rigors of life as professional athletes.
It gets even more daunting for foreign athletes, who not only have to compete with the best of homegrown talents in their various schools in athletics, they also have to navigate the not-so-familiar schedule of the academic system as well as the climate change.
Some of these constraints have posed a challenge for foreign athletes as they rarely get off the blocks when they start competing. Some even have to wait till their sophomore year to get into full stride. Not Nigeria’s Favour Ashe.
Fervid followers of athletics in Nigeria would have not been surprised about the 19-year Old’s immense form since teaming up with the University of Tennessee about three months back. The school itself lays claim to nurturing two of the finest sprinters the World has seen in Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin.
In fact, Ashe has been so bullish about his chances of leaving a footprint in Tennessee that he already models his racing style to that of Coleman. A closer look at how he executes his race indicates obvious similarities, but at the point he got into the United States, it was more about settling down and acclimatizing to a change in scenery.
“Coleman is the fastest man and it all started from Tennessee and I will say I’m more like Coleman, in fact, I’m a ‘Lil Coleman.’ I have got the start, the same physique as him, so I want to continue from where he stopped at the school because he is my role model.”
How does one man lay claim to succeeding one of the fastest men in history and a World Champion both indoors and outdoors? Favour Ashe had the answer.
In his first race as a Vol in the last weekend of January, Ashe posted the fourth-fastest 60m time in Tennessee’s history when he clocked 6.58 at the Clemson’s Bob Pollock Meet. Only former Vols Coleman, Leonard Scott, and Gatlin are ahead of Ashe in the all-time school standings.
The performance was nothing short of astonishing as it was his first-time racing over the distance. At the time only 22 Africans had run faster in history. That display saw him named Southeastern Conference Male Freshman of the Week.
Two weeks later at Arkansas’ Tyson Invite, Ashe dropped a 6.52s in his preliminary run. This time, his time broke the Tennessee freshman record previously held by Scott at 6.56, which he set in 1999. Ashe’s finish moved him up to third all-time in Tennessee history in the event, behind Scott’s 6.48 set in 2001 and Christian Coleman’s school-record run of 6.45 achieved in 2017.
By virtue of the win, Ashe became the first Tennessee athlete to earn multiple Freshman of the week honors since Coleman achieved the feat in 2014. In less than three months, he’s already having a go at Coleman’s records, which many thought would take years to be broken.
It all didn’t start this year for Ashe. November 2018 was the turning point. Ashe was still a fledgling who was running for fun at Otovwodo Grammar School in Ughelli in Ugheli, Delta State, until he was picked up by Deji Aliu, the head coach at Making of Champions track club in Lagos, Nigeria.
Interestingly, Aliu took a punt on Ashe when he seemed an outside bet. Might be a gut feeling or intuition. However, the Nigerian Record holder over the 60m indoors with 6.48 knew there was something special about the lad. Rather fittingly, Aliu might just kiss his record goodbye judging by the form of his protégé.
Although we are still in the indoor season, Ashe will set his sights on the 100m as he picks one lock at a time. In the three years, he was being coached by Aliu, he moved from 11.2s to 10.17s. That alone speaks volumes of his talent, one that if fully harnessed could potentially take him to the top echelons of global sprinting.
For all Ashe’s understated public persona and the unfussy way, he goes about his business on the track, such a high-stakes landmark has felt inevitable since he emerged as a precocious and remarkably fully-formed talent almost four years ago.
It is the curse of a journalist to talk up young sprinters but, at times like these, it feels unavoidable, and with the summer looming it is surely inevitable that there will be a clamor that Ashe can’t be neglected in the selection for both individual races and the relays in the Nigerian squad.
It might seem a bit farfetched, especially with the trials still to take place, too. Ashe, however, seemed well primed to take on the task.