Multiple World-Class Performances by Makusha and Claye Lead to National Athlete of the Year Plaudits

By Tom Lewis, USTFCCCA

June 16, 2011   

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced on Thursday that Florida State’s Ngoni Makusha and Florida’s Will Claye are the 2011 NCAA Division I National Men’s Athletes of the Year for outdoor track & field as voted by the nation’s coaches. Makusha won three NCAA crowns last weekend while Claye is among the world’s top five in both the long and triple jumps.

National Women’s Athletes of the Year for Division I outdoor track & field will be announced on Friday.

NATIONAL MEN’S TRACK ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Ngoni Makusha, Florida State

Makusha, a junior from Zimbabwe, at last weekend’s NCAA Championships, became only the fourth man in NCAA Division I history, and the first since 1981, to win national titles in the 100 meters and long jump in the same championships. Makusha joined an exclusive list that includes Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis when executing the feat. Makusha was also a member of the Seminole’s 4×100-meter relay squad that prevailed through a nearly-disastrous first exchange to win the national title. All told, Makusha’s 22½ points helped FSU to a second-place team finish.

Makusha won the national 100-meter crown in a collegiate- and championships-record 9.89 seconds, topping the 1996 record of UCLA’s Ato Boldon (9.92). The time, also a new record for his native country Zimbabwe, ranks No. 4 in the world for the 2011 season.

Makusha also won the 100 meters at the ACC Championships in a wind-aided time of 9.97.

Although long jump performances are not considered as part of the award, Makusha claimed the ACC crown in the discipline, and, with a best of 27-6¾ (8.40m) to win the NCAA title, he seized another Zimbabwean national record, standing No. 2 in the world for 2011 in the event.

On Wednesday, Makusha declared that he was forgoing his senior season to turn professional.

Past Winners:

2011: Ngoni Makusha, Florida State

2010: Andrew Wheating, Oregon

2009: Galen Rupp, Oregon

2008: Richard Thompson, LSU

2007: Walter Dix, Florida State

2006: Xavier Carter, LSU

NATIONAL MEN’S FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Will Claye, Florida

Claye, a junior from Phoenix, Ariz., notched outstanding performances in the horizontal jumps throughout the season and most recently at the NCAA Championships’ finals. Claye finished second in the triple jump and third in the long jump nationally with a pair of world-class performances.

Claye was second only to teammate Christian Taylor (58-4¾w, 17.80m) in the triple as both men would record two of the best all-time performances in collegiate history, regardless of conditions. Claye executed four jumps over 56 feet and two wind-aided leaps of over 57 feet in an epic back-and-forth battle with fellow Gator Taylor. Claye’s best jump of the series, a wind-aided, final-attempt leap went 57-9¾ (17.62m) and has only been bettered twice in collegiate history. Claye’s best wind-legal jump on his third attempt of 56-11¼ (17.35m) was the collegiate- and American-leading mark of the season until teammate Taylor notched a fourth-round, wind-legal jump of 57-1 (17.40m).

In the long jump, Claye was third at the NCAA meet with a best of 26-11 (8.20m).

At the SEC Championships, Claye won titles in both events, the first to do since 2004, with a season’s best long jump of 27-2½ (8.29m) and a wind-aided triple jump best of 56-6¾ (17.24m).

Among wind-legal marks, Claye ranks fourth in the world for 2011 in both the long and triple jumps.

Past Winners:

2011: Will Claye, Florida

2010: Ashton Eaton, Oregon / Ryan Whiting, Arizona State

2009: Ashton Eaton, Oregon

2008: Cory Martin, Auburn

2007: Jake Arnold, Arizona

2006: Garrett Johnson, Florida State / Jesse Williams, Southern California