Favour Ashe, photo from SEC
Favour Ofili, photo from LSU Track & Field
Deji Ogeyingbo sent this to me last week, and in the craziness of the weekend, I am posting it right now. I love the title,” A tale of two ‘Favours’!
A tale of two ‘Favours’: How Ofili and Ashe stormed to SEC Outdoor titles against all odds
Nigeria’s sprinting sensations, Favour Ofili and Favour Ashe were the talks of the just concluded South Eastern Conference Outdoor Championships this weekend after they helped their schools to victories at the Ole Miss track & field complex in Oxford, Mississippi. The two Favours left everything on the track as Ofili clinched the 100m/200m double while Ashe won the men’s 100m.
They say fortune favours the brave, and like both their first names signify, this win meant so much to them as they had to knock off opponents who were favourites to win against all odds.
For Ofili, it was the duel everyone had been anticipating going into the finals. The Louisiana State University athlete was expected to come up against USA’s sprinting bride Abby Steiner who runs track for the University of Kentucky.
Before the weekend it was Steiner who led the head-to-head as she had won 8 of their previous meetings indoors and outdoors. In fact, she defeated Ofili four times indoors this year. On paper, it was meant to be a cakewalk for Steiner who just returned from injury late last year.
However, Ofili’s performance in the last couple of weeks seemed to have tilted the tide in her favour, especially in the 200m where she ran a collegiate record of 21.96 over the 200m. Steiner responded with her 22.05 at the Kentucky invitational a week later. We were certainly in for a thrill. First off, they went up against each other in the 4x100m.
Ofili teamed up with Alia Armstrong, Tionna Beard-Brown, and Thelma Davies to win LSU’s sixth straight conference title in the event. The quartet ran a season’s best of 42.59 to set the facility record. Over an hour later they were to meet in the 100m.
This was where Steiner could steal a march, as it wasn’t Ofili’s primary event having started her track career as a 400m runner before moving down the ladder. In April at the Joy May Invitational, the American beat Ofili over the distance. Psychologically and with the home crowd behind her, Ofili needed to produce her best performance to date.
That she did. Surprisingly Ofili got off to a brilliant start, and once she got into her full stride, there was no stopping her as she clocked 10.93 for the win from Steiner’s 11.02. The time matched her career best and also made her the fastest athlete in collegiate history to run into a headwind.
Over in the 200m, both sprinters jumped straight into the lead with incredible starts. At the curve, this two were absolutely flying as they kept a considerable lead from the rest of the lead. It was then Ofili began to open up the lead on Steiner, and despite a late surge at the end, it was the LSU sophomore who proved her dominance over the half-lap, taking the win in 22.04s, an SEC record in the 200m and a world championship standard.
“Everything that I have, everything I’ve done here, it’s all by the grace of God,” Ofili said after her 200m title. “Competing with Abby, we know we are going to run fast times together. I’m just happy to be healthy and I give God all the glory”. Ofili said.
The beauty about this rivalry was that Steiner and Ofili both ran a tenth of a second faster than the previous SEC championship record. This two are unstoppable at the moment and there is an almost certainty that we are just beginning to see something special, one that will trickle down into the NCAA Championships.
On the other side of Ofili’s breathtaking running was her Nigerian teammate, Ashe. All-clad in University of Tennessee’s orange wear, the 20-year-Old freshman proved that he’s the best around at the moment taking down more senior athletes on his way to his first SEC title.
The men’s 100m was fully stacked, similar to what we witnessed at the NCAA Indoor Championships over the 60m. It was seen as a straight-up matchup between Ashe and University of Georgia’s Mathew Boling.
Boling had the fastest legal time over the distance with his 9.98s (+1.6) clocking at the Tom Jones Invitational about a month ago. However, Ashe’s stunning 9.79s (+3.0) on April 30th at the LSU Invitational line up as the fastest on the field.
After a decent start, there was very little to separate them, but eventually, it was Ashe who outran the field to coast to victory in a new Personal Best of 10.04s (+0.6). It was the second time the Nigerian was getting one over Boling after he beat him to 3rd place at the NCAA Indoor Champs.
Ashe’s title on Saturday was the University of Tennessee’s third individual SEC title at the 2022 SEC Championships, as his winning time also broke the Tennessee freshman record previously held by Olympian Justin Gatlin at 10.08.
Ashe’s mark also moved him to second all-time in UT history behind only 2017 The Bowerman award winner and Olympian Christian Coleman, a man he hopes to shatter his records and was his major motivation in picking the school as they both have the same running style.
Although Ashe has been on fire in 2022, he was rather disappointed by the time as he really wanted to dip inside 10s legally for the first time in his career. Expectedly, because this was the first time in five years the winner over the 100m at these championships did not break the 10s barrier.
The die is cast for these two Favours. Both are on the cusp of history. One title down, one more to go in the NCAA Champs next month. The world awaits.