Former Zimbabwe's star long jumper Ngonidzashe Makusha has saluted his Zimbabwean proteges at Drake University, Kundai Maguranyanga and Cloud Masibhera, after they both managed to secure places on the podium at the Jimmy Grant Open track and field championships which were recently held at Iowa City in Iowa, United States.
The Jimmy Grant Open was the opening meet of the 2018-19 indoor track and field season in Iowa and it saw Drake University competing against Iowa, Iowa State, Illinois State and UNI.
And the Drakes' Bulldogs collected a total of 12 top-five finishes to open the season in style, thanks to the exploits of their Zimbabwean athletes Maguranyanga and Masibhera who came out in the top three in the men's 300 metres and long jump events respectively.
Maguranyanga was the pick of Drake University crop at the Jimmy Grant Open where he set a new national record in the men's 300 metres event in which he clocked 33.52 seconds when settling for second place at the Jimmy Grant Open on December 8.
Now a sophomore (second-year student) at Drake University in Iowa, Maguranyanya (20) opened his season by taking second place in the 300m in 33.52 seconds to smash Tatenda Tsumba's two-year national record of 34.06 which was set on January 7, 2016 at the BYU Cougar Indoor Invitational.
Another Drake University-based Zimbabwean athlete, Masibhera (20), was also in action at the Jimmy Grant Open at the weekend where he came third in the men's long jump by clearing 7.04m.
At Drake University, Maguranyanga and Masibhera are under the guidance of fellow Zimbabwean and Olympian Ngonidzashe Makusha.
Makusha, a bronze medallist for Zimbabwe in the men's long jump at the 2011 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea, is now an assistant coach for sprints, hurdles and jumps at Drake University.
And Makusha was all smiles after his charges Maguranyanga and Masibhera managed to secure places on the podium at the Jimmy Grant Open.
"We had a great meet at the Jimmy Grant Open which was held at the University of Iowa. It was a very early meet to see where we are as a team. Cloud (Masibhera) came third in the men's long jump event, he jumped 7.04m (which is not bad at all).
"Kundai (Maguranyanga) did great, he broke the school's and Zimbabwe national record in the 300m event with a time of 33.52sec. They are both looking very good leading up to the up coming season. They are off for a few weeks now to take care of their academic obligations and the Christmas break. They will be back at the campus during the first week of January," Makusha told The Herald from his base in Iowa.
Makusha said his Zimbabwean proteges Maguranyanga and Masibhera, who both joined Drake University at the beginning of this year, have now settled down at his college and they are both aiming at qualifying for the 2019 Doha IAAF World Championships and probably the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
In fact, Makusha believes that both Maguranyanga and Masibhera are strong candidates for Team Zimbabwe for next year's IAAF World Championships in Doha. The 2019 IAAF World Championships are scheduled to run from September 27 to October 6.
And it is Maguranyanga's eye-catching performance in the men's 300m event at the Jimmy Grant Open which has sent a strong message that he is determined to punch his ticket for the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
Maguranyanga also had a good outdoor season during his first year at Drake University.
He finished third in the 100m, second in the 200m, third in the 4x100m relay and eighth in the 4x400m relay at the MVC Championships; and this saw him winning the MVC Freshman of the Year award.
Maguranyanga, a former pupil at Pamushana High School in Masvingo, also finished ninth in the 200m, sixth in the 4x100m relay and 12th in the 4x400m relay at the Drake Relays.
In the 2018 indoor season, Maguranyanga finished eighth in the 60m dash at the MVC Championships.
His personal best time in the 60m dash is 6.91 seconds and as of September 2018 his PB in the 200m event is 22.21 seconds.
Maguranyanga's teammate at Drake University, Masibhera, also enjoyed a good season during his first year at the Iowa-based college.
This year, Masibhera, a former pupil at Churchill High School in Harare, won the indoor long jump title at the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championships and finished fourth in the triple jump event.
As of September 2018, Masibhera's personal bests in long jump and triple jump were 7,52m and 14,29m respectively.