Stanford University, USA undergraduate student, Amaechi Morton ran a blistering 48.95 seconds in the 400m hurdles at the weekend to win his first Pac-12 Championships title at the Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon and threw down the gauntlet as the athlete to watch-out for next month in Calabar at the 66th Cross River State/AFN All Nigeria Open Athletics Championships.
Morton's time was just a hundredth of a second off his own school record and the sixth fastest time in the World this year.
He is one of just eight runners in the World under 49 seconds so far this season and already has the Olympic `A' Standard.
A member of Nigeria's 4x400m relay team at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Berlin, Germany in 2009, Morton, who changed allegiance to Nigeria that same year after coach Pat Itanyi convinced him to run for his country of origin instead of country of birth (USA) is seen by local athletics watchers as the athlete who could spring a medal surprise for Nigeria at the London Olympics later this summer.
A delighted coach Tony Osheku said Monday from his temporary base in Tunisia that Morton could be the athlete the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) needs to make the men's 4x400m team strong and qualify for the Olympics.
“Amaechi has always proved to be a very talented athlete and I want to advice the AFN to settle whatever differences it has with the athlete so that Nigeria can produce a formidable 1600 relay team at the Olympics as well as a potential 400m hurdles finalist. Remember he is the second fastest Nigerian so far in the 400m flat (46.12) behind Biola Onakoya who ran 46.08 seconds over the weekend'', said Osheku.
Morton is seen by many local watchers of the sport as the athlete who can break the 25 year-old 48.50 seconds national 400m hurdles record held by Henry Amike.
Meanwhile another American-Nigerian Itanyi has convinced to switch allegiance to her country of origin, Chinwe Okoro could derail 13th time national shot put queen, Vivian Chukwuemeka's comeback bid at the Calabar championships.
Chukwuemeka will be staging a comeback to the championships after serving her two-year doping ban but Okoro, who won the title last year is currently the national leader in the event with her throw of 17.39m.