US-based Zimbabwean sprinter Gabriel Mvumvure was the big winner at the Penn Relays after helping Louisiana State University (LSU) to victories in the 4×100 and 4×200-metre relays and capping it with an individual title in open 100-metre dash.
This led track and field analysts in the US to describe Mvumvure’s performance as one of the most impressive performances by an LSU track and field athlete.
Mvumvure teamed up with Keith Talley, Horatio Williams and Tristan Walker on Saturday to post a time of 38,77 seconds — the second-fastest in Penn Relays history — to run away with the 4×100-metre relay title by more than a second.
Mvumvure, Williams and Walker then combined with junior Riker Hilton just an hour later to clip rival Texas A and M by just 0,1 of a second for the 4×200-meter relay crown.
Mvumvure put his name in elite company by joining former LSU sprinter Trindon Holliday as the only LSU men ever to win the 100-metre dash at the Penn Relays as he posted a wind-legal time of 10,33 seconds to clip TCU’s Charles Simon.
“I’m in the best shape of my life. All of the hard work that I’ve put in my first three years is paying off for me this season,” Mvumvure said in a news release. “To come here to Penn and get a win in both relays is very special to me.”
Mvumvure’s ascendance this season has paralleled that of star long jumper Ngonidzashe Makusha of Florida State, who ran a collegiate 100 metres for the first time a week ago and finished in 9,97 seconds — the third-fastest time in the world this year.
Both athletes were discovered through the World Wide Scholarship (WWS) which helped them secure scholarship opportunities in the US.
As a young sprinter in the town of Kwekwe, Mvumvure improvised by placing weights inside a car tire and tying the homemade sled to his waist.
“There was a street near our house, and I used to just run up and down the street,” said the 1,524m Mvumvure, now a senior at LSU, who won the open 100m in 10,33 seconds at the Penn Relays.
He later moved to Harare, attended Churchill High School for a time with Makusha and became the African junior champion in the 100 (10,45s) and the 200 (20,91s).
In 2007, Mvumvure came with a group of runners to the Penn Relays, and the WWS director Munyaradzi Maraire began seeking a scholarship for him resulting in him moving to LSU.
He joined the LSU programme as Zimbabwe’s national junior record holder in both the 100 metres (10,45s) and 200 meters (20,91s) and represented the country in the 200-metre dash at the 2006 IAAF World Junior championships in Beijing, China.
The 23-year-old Mvumvure went on to win the African Junior Athletics title in the 100 and 200 metres and competed at the 2007 All-Africa Games in Algiers, winning a bronze medal as a member of Zimbabwe’s 4×100-metre relay team.
He finished sixth in the 200 metres and would be rewarded later that year by being named the National Junior Athlete of the Year at the Annual National Sports Awards.