Coppin State track and field coach Carl Hicks wouldn't exactly call it a no-brainer to recruit a world-class sprinter and future Olympian, but it was about as close to one as you can get.
For Joseph Amoah, a 5-foot-11, 150-pound sprinter from Ghana, Coppin State was where his best friend Martin Owusu-Antwi was attending school. He had other options, but he wasn't about to pass on an opportunity to be reunited with his old training partner.
For Hicks and the Eagles, it was an easy decision to recruit Amoah. With a 100-meter dash time of almost 10 seconds flat, he's the fastest Ghanaian in the past 24 years, and after Owusu-Antwi talked up his old friend to Hicks, he knew he had to try to get Amoah to run on his team.
So, they both got what they wanted; Amoah got the chance to run with his friend on the same team again, while Hicks and Coppin State got an athlete who has practically rewritten the program's record book.
Amoah finished a phenomenal junior season by placing eighth in the 100-meter dash (10.22 seconds) and sixth in the 200-meter dash (20.19 seconds) at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas, June 7. He qualified for the 100-meter dash finals by posting a 10.01 time in the event during the semifinals June 5.
The qualifying time, which is just three-hundredths of a second slower than the Ghanaian record of 9.98, was good enough to earn him a spot in the 2019 World Championships in Qatar and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He became the first Ghanaian athlete to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
"It's been my dream since I started running track to be in the Olympics," Amoah said. "Words cannot describe how happy I was. I felt like it was a dream come true to get to that level."
Ever since Amoah joined the Coppin State team in 2016, it's hard to find a school record that he doesn't own. In addition to his 100-meter dash time, he was also a part of Coppin's record-breaking 4x100-meter relay team that posted a time of 39.30 seconds in Austin June 5. And he broke his own record in the 200-meter dash with a time of 20.08 seconds on the same day.
It's a rare talent that Coppin State hasn't had in a long time, Hicks said.
"It's truly a blessing," Hicks said of Amoah's ability. "We've had some outstanding athletes come through Coppin State, but Joseph Amoah stands out the most. It just gives even more attention to our institution."
When Amoah saw the school's record times, he knew they were times he could beat. And when he started to topple one record after the other, it only motivated him to break more.
"Looking at the record and knowing this is my record but I can run faster than that, it motivated me to go ahead and train harder," Amoah said. "Now, it's like setting a new [personal record] is like breaking a school record for me."
One of the reasons Amoah had such a strong finish at the end of Coppin's season is because he and his coaches changed his peak point so he could get faster times later in the season. Amoah hit his peak in the middle of the season last year, which caused him to hit a wall where he couldn't improve on his times.
This year, Amoah and the Coppin coaches tweaked that philosophy so he could improve as the season went on. And that's the way Amoah likes it.
"I had the confidence I was going to be in the NCAA Championship early in the season, so I just had to stay calm and know the season was very long," Amoah said. "I wanted to wait for the right time, and I peaked right when I wanted."
Now, as Amoah gets ready for his senior season with the Eagles, he has two goals: break the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter dash and the 20-second barrier in the 200-meter dash. Hicks believes that he isn't far from capturing either.
"At this point, it's just maintenance," Hicks said. "He laid down a foundation in the fall, so now all we have to do is prepare and maintain what he has and hope that he can turn it on at the World Championship and maybe even before that."
"It's coming," Hicks added. "It may not be this weekend, but it's coming."
Amoah will be running this summer to prepare for the World Championships. He knows he has the potential to break those barriers. And by relying on his record-breaking experience, he might need to add more accomplishments to his long list by the end of the year.
"My body knows how to run that fast at that level right now," Amoah said. "I just need to use the experience that I've got and execute every race from the start."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Coppin State Athletics