Lawrence, Eaton, McCorory, and Okagbare Claim National Athlete of the Year Honors

By Tom Lewis, USTFCCCA

March 16, 2010   

NEW ORLEANS – Georgia’s Torrin Lawrence, Oregon’s Ashton Eaton, Hampton’s Francena McCorory, and UTEP’s Blessing Okagbare were recognized Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) as recipients of National Athlete of the Year Awards for the indoor track & field season in Division I.

NATIONAL MALE TRACK ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Georgia’s Torrin Lawrence
Lawrence, a sophomore from Jacksonville, Fla., claimed his first NCAA 400-meter title last weekend, outsprinting the field in clocking 45.23 in the final round. Earlier in the season at the Tyson Invitational, Lawrence clocked a world-leading 45.03 over 400 meters to move into the all-time top five performers list. With a 45.10 performance two weeks later in winning the SEC crown, Lawrence became the first person in indoor history to claim two-sub 45.10 performances in the same season. Lawrence also had an undefeated season at distances between 200 and 400 meters.

In addition, during a nonchalant 300-meter run at January’s Hokie Invitational, Lawrence stopped the clock at 32.32 to reign as the all-time collegiate best at the distance. Lawrence has also claimed officially-timed splits of 45.00 and 45.04 for the Bulldog 4×400-meter relay teams.

NATIONAL MALE FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Oregon’s Ashton Eaton
Eaton, a senior from Bend, Ore., not only won the NCAA heptathlon title for the second-straight year last weekend in Fayetteville, but he also did it by world-record fashion. With a total score of 6,499 points, Eaton reset what was Dan O’Brien’s 1993 record of 6,476 with five new personal bests over the seven-event bonanza. Over the two days, Eaton clocked 6.71 in the 60-meter dash, long jumped 25-4½ (7.73m), put the shot to 43-½ (13.12m), cleared 6-11 (2.11m) in the high jump, ran 7.77 in the 60-meter hurdles, topped 16-8¾ (5.10m) in the pole vault, and ran 1000 meters in 2:32.67.

In January, Eaton topped what was Trey Hardee’s collegiate record with a 6,256 tally. In all seven events, Eaton would better each of his marks from that January weekend to claim the world record.

NATIONAL FEMALE TRACK ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Hampton’s Francena McCorory
McCorory, a senior from Hampton, Va., defended her national indoor title in the 400-meter dash by running an American record 50.54 in the final. McCorory topped the 1991 record formally held by Diane Dixon, the first female NCAA Indoor Champion at the distance (Ohio State, 1983). The three-time MEAC indoor champion, McCorory became the first back-to-back NCAA Indoor 400-meter champion since Suziann Reid of Texas did so in 1998 and 1999.

NATIONAL FEMALE FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: UTEP’s Blessing Okagbare
Okagbare, a senior from Sapele, Nigeria, claimed top honors in two events, including the long jump, at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Okagbare twice, in rounds two and three, bettered what was the NCAA meet record held by Auburn’s Elva Goulbourne. Her best mark of the meet, a 22-6½ (6.87m) jump was preceded by a 22-5¼ (6.84m) leap and seven inches better than second-place finisher Mindy McClurkin of BYU. Okagbare went undefeated in the long jump and triple jump this season and was ranked in the collegiate top-five in the triple jump with a season best of 44-5½ (13.55m). Okagbare won Conference USA titles in both the long and triple jump for the second-straight year.

While not considered as part of the criteria for the award, Okagbare also was the NCAA champ in the 60-meter dash, won conference crowns in both the 60- and 200-meter events and was ranked in the nation’s top three in both events.

The USTFCCCA will announce the updated watch list for The Bowerman on Wednesday, followed by announcements of the National Assistant Coaches of the Year (Thursday) and National Coaches of the Year (Friday).