Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 22, 2012

Stanford's Morton will run for Nigeria instead of USA

by Keith Peters

When the nation's top runners go to the starting line next week for qualifying rounds of the men's 400-intermediate hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, Stanford's Amaechi Morton will not be among them.

Morton, who earlier this month ran the fastest race of his life (48.79) to become the first Stanford hurdler to win that race at the NCAA championships, has made his decision on which path he'll take in an attempt to qualify for the London Olympics.

Instead of competing at the U.S. Trials in Eugene, Ore., Morton will take advantage of his dual citizenship and compete at the 66th Cross River state/AFN All Nigeria Open Athletics Championships that begin Monday in Calabar, Nigeria.

"It''s an opportunity that you don't want to give up," Morton told David Rutz of Atlanta-based NeighborNewspapers.com. "I don't know what's going to be happening four years from now."

Morton is not listed among the entrants for the U.S. Trials and wasn't projected among the top 10 finishers in the 400 IH by Track and Field News Magazine.

Morton's mother, Nkem Sabena Obiekwe, was born in Nigeria while Morton was born in the U.S., thus giving him dual citizenship. He competed for Nigeria at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Berlin in 2009, failing to help Nigeria's 4x400 relay team advance to the finals.

Earlier this season, Morton was mum on which country he'd represent this summer. Morton, however, ran 48.95 to win the Pac-12 Championships and earn an Olympic 'A' standard. He then clocked his lifetime best of 48.79 for the NCAA title, ranking him No. 6 in the world.

Despite that lofty ranking, Morton would have been only the third-fastest American at the U.S. Trials behind Olympians Bershawn Jackson (48.20) and Angelo Taylor (48.71). The risk of having to finish among the top three in order evidently was too great for Morton.

Morton graduated on Sunday after earning a double major (one in science, technology and society and the other in Iberian and Latin-American literature) and departed for Nigeria on Monday to begin his quest for an Olympic berth.

In addition to running the 400 hurdles, Morton likely will compete for a berth on the 4x400 relay squad where his 46.12 in the flat 400 ranks him No. 2 behind Biola Onakoya's 46.08 among Nigerian runners.

Fellow Stanford grad Arantxa King, meanwhile, has been named to the Bermuda Olympic Team by the International Association of Athletics Federations. King will compete in the long jump at the 2012 Games in London.

"At my core I relate with Bermuda," King said. "Since I was 14 I have been competing internationally for them. From those opportunities I've come to where I am."

King graduated in 2011, but competed this season as a fifth-year senior and graduate student for the Cardinal.

She was a first team All-American indoors in the long jump and competed in both the long jump and triple jump at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

King was also an Olympian for Bermuda in 2008 in Beijing and was once again named to the team of the Caribbean Island nation of about 65,000 people.

"I loved being around people from across the world," King said of her experience. "During the parade, at one point, I found myself next to Rafael Nadal. It was amazing."

Stanford coach Edrick Floreal may be around to help. He will be in London as the coach of the U.S. male jumpers, as well as the decathlon and heptathlon athletes.

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