Featured image: Liberia U18 & U20 Athletics Team, courtesy of Frederick Krah.
On May 19, the Ghana Athletics Association (GAA) opened the Region II U-18 and U-20 Championship at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium. The three-day event, which is a qualifier for the 2022 World Athletics Youth Championships, brought together athletes under age 20 from the West African region.
Both the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) and World Athletics partnered with GAA to launch the meet. With Ghana serving as host and participant, eight other countries competed. The countries included Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo. When counting a relay team’s victory as one medal, Ghana led the competition with an impressive 43 total medals, while Liberia secured 13. This tally ranked Liberia seventh overall.
Altogether, 16 young Liberian athletes attended the meet. The group placed in eight different events, with some athletes winning medals in multiple events and one athlete winning a gold.
“My message is for us to focus on athletics and the team now, because Liberia will be looked at at the next ECOWAS game,” Atty. Frederick B. Krah, vice president for technical affairs for the Liberia Athletics Federation, told Go Team Liberia.
Krah also acted as team lead at the event. He shared how Liberia’s performance is just the beginning of a mission to create a more competitive under-18 and under-20 group. The team leader explained that the federation plans to secure more golds and more wins at the next regional meet.
For now, the small team has a lot to be proud of. Especially youth sprinter Arthur Quaqua. The 17-year-old sprinter won Liberia’s single gold medal in the U-18 men’s 200 meters race with a time of 22.43 seconds. This race was slower than his 22.35 recorded personal best, but was more than enough to easily take gold. Quaqua also won a silver medal in the U-18 men’s 100 meters and a bronze in the U-18 men’s medley relay.
The medal list
During the medley relay, one team member must run either the 100, 200, 300, or 400 to complete the race. Lassana Tarwallay, Musa Kamara and Jonathan Tomah won the U-18 men’s medley relay bronze along with Quaqua. Tarwallay walked away with an additional bronze medal from the U-18 men’s 100 meters race, while Tomah nabbed a separate bronze in the U-18 men’s 400 meters.
Liberia sent four athletes to compete in the women’s U-18 category: Marthaline Kesselley, Triphina Turay, Saybah Kolee and Anna B. Freeman. All young ladies returned to Liberia with medals. The four teammates won a bronze in the U-18 women’s medley relay, while Turay added another bronze in the long jump. Freeman also took multiple medals home, jumping 1.33 meters to win a silver medal in the U-18 women’s high jump.
In the men’s U-20 category, Krah shared that Chaleston Nuwan, Winston Nuwan, Abraham Davis, and Patrick Flomo placed third in the 4×100 — yet another relay bronze for Liberia. Also, according to footage from LOMEN1 TV, Liberia’s Telvin Jallah placed third in the men’s U-20 100 meters race.
Taking to the field
As noted, Liberia’s medals weren’t only won on the track. Besides Turay and Freeman’s wins in the long jump and high jump, Liberia secured medals in other field-events. Krah’s 16-year-old son, Freddie Krah earned a spot on the team and returned to Liberia with a silver medal in the U-18 men’s javelin throw and a bronze in the U-18 men’s shot put. Lastly, Flomo won Liberia a bronze in the U-20 men’s javelin throw.
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“We’d also like to start doing other field events,” the team leader said. “Our medals did not go up that much because we did not do triple jump, 110 meter hurdles and other events. We did not participate in it because those implements are not in Liberia.”
The GAA has not posted official results online, but Krah shared placement results from a printout that each team received. He also emphasized that lots of people can run, jump, or throw, which should make athletics a natural choice for first-time athletes. Still, it seems as if Liberians are only just beginning to take notice and support the sport. Without a doubt Liberia’s recent success at the Tokyo Olympics should get lots of credit for the country’s new found interest in track.
“In our homeland no one gets time for athletics,” U-20 medalist Davis told a GAA interviewer. “I was so surprised to see the Liberians in the diaspora and that of even Ghana that are praising the Liberians stating, ‘Oh, Liberians are getting better, they’re into athletics these days,’ so I feel so happy.”
In addition to the athletes, Liberia sent three coaches: Otricia Coleman, Weabeh E. Freeman, and Timothy S. Kollie. Local athletics fans might recognize Coleman from her time as a successful young high jumper, who Krah personally coached. Her experience and knowledge will certainly help build the U-18 and U-20 teams.
View official times for all participants here. Click through to view images of the team at the Championship.