SJU sprinter finishes 6th in Olympic heat

In the sport of track and field, years of training often come down to a few tenths of a second, which was the case for Liberia’s Phobay Kutu-Akoi, a St. John’s alumna as she ran an 11.52-second 100-meter dash in her heat at the 2012 Olympic Games, less than 0.4 seconds behind the last semifinal qualifier in her group.

The 11.52-second split was identical to Kutu-Akoi’s performance at the 2009 Metropolitan Championships that earned her the St. John’s University and Liberian national record in the 100-meter dash.

“We were very excited to see Phobay run in her preliminary round against the best sprinters in the world at the Olympics today,” said track and field head Coach Jim Hurt. “We are very proud of her and her journey that began here at St. John’s and took her to London for the 2012 Olympic Games.”

Kutu-Akoi got off to a strong start from the blocks as she went step for step with some of the world’s best athletes. Jamaican sprinter and reigning 200-meter gold medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown separated herself from the pack and eventually took the heat with a 10.94 second mark.

Kutu-Akoi’s time made her the 41st fastest participant in the 100-meter dash.

She qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games with an 11.37 second time at the Bobcat Classic in San Marcos, Texas, April 28.

Kutu-Akoi’s story has gained attention as she immigrated to the United States in 1999 due to the political unrest in her home nation of Liberia.

“I wear that uniform so proudly. Every time I put it on, it brings me back to where I came from,” said Kutu-Akoi. “When we moved from Liberia, it was December of 1999, and there weren’t any wars going on at the time, but there were previous civil wars that I had experienced. … But I love my country. I had a really great childhood. I couldn’t see myself representing any other country and I’m really excited. This has been a dream of mine all along.”

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