By Daniel Nhakaniso
RISING Zimbabwean athletics sensation Alfred Chawonza capped off a memorable season in style after being named as the winner of the prestigious Men of Essex Award during the 61st edition of the annual awards dinner at the Cedar Hill Golf & Country Club in Livingston, New Jersey in the United States last week.
Presented by the Men of Essex Inc, a service organisation of African-American professionals and businessmen, the annual Essex Awards Dinner bestows distinction on leading scholar-athletes representing public and private in the northeastern part of the US state of New Jersey (Essex County).
Chawonza, a former St George’s College pupil in Harare, who is in his final year of high school at St Benedict in New Jersey, finished the season as the top 800m runner on the US High School track and field circuit after clocking 1:50,57 to win the Boston University Last Chance meet title in February.
The 19-year-old young star subsequently received several scholarship offers from some of the leading universities in the US, before he opted to join Texas Tech, whose track and field programme was last year named the best in the US.
Chawonza told The Sports Hub in an interview on Friday that recognition by the Men of Essex Inc would inspire him to continue working harder.
“It’s always an honour to be recognised. For me it’s like a manifestation of all the hard work I put in practice and in my education. It’s also a motivation to work even harder because it’s moments like these why we always grind and work hard for,” said Chawonza.
In a statement on their official website, Men of Essex Inc described Chawonza as a worthy recipient due to his achievements on and off the track, describing him as one of the top prospects in athletics in the US.
“Alfred Chawonza is one of the top track athletes in the United States across all sports. Not only is he highly ranked in the athletic field, but he also puts in a lot of hours studying to maintain his 3.6 GPA. He is a hard-working young man who has earned academic honours every year throughout his time at St Benedict’s and has also captained the track team to two Essex County titles,” the organisation said.
Chawonza has been on a steady rise since qualifying for the 2017 World Youth Championships, reaching the semi-finals where he impressed scouts from St Benedict’s.
This past indoor season, the St Benedict’s senior was crowned champion in three different events at Essex County: the 800m, 1 600m and the 4x400m.
Following that he went on to break the school record, previously held by Kenya-born American middle distance runner. Edward Chezerek, with a US number one time of 1:50:57, which was his indoor personal record.
Chawonza also earned four All American titles in the recent Indoor Nationals to add to the four he already had, making him an eight time All-American, one of which was a national title in the 4x400m.
Over the course of the year, he was able to set three individual records in the 600m, 800m and 1 000m and he was also part of the 4x800m relay team that broke the long-standing Millrose record.
While earning all these accolades, he also secured himself a place on the next level by committing to Texas Tech University, where he will continue his education and running career starting in September 2019.