First National Athletes of the Week for 2014 Announced

By Kyle Terwillegar, USTFCCCA

January 13, 2014   

NEW ORLEANS – The 2014 collegiate indoor track & field campaign may yet be young, but the first class of National Athletes of the Week in the New Year has already set the tone for the season to come.

Purdue’s Chukwuebuka Enekwechi threw for a collegiate leader in the weight throw and Maryland’s Thea LaFond took the early-season Division I lead in both the high jump and triple jump to highlight Division I.

In Division II, Georgian Court’s Tiffany Okieme followed up her pre-holiday break Division-best shot put effort with the No. 2 weight throw mark of the season, while Southwest Baptist’s Deneko Brown ran the Division’s two fastest times over 60 meters and clocked in at No. 3 on the 200 meters performers list.

Katie McMenamin added a Division III-best 800 time to a 2013 campaign that already includes the Division’s fastest mile of 2013-14, and Michael Bennett of Chicago became the first Division III man over 16 feet in the pole vault this season.

Full info on each of the winners’ weekends can be found below.

National Athletes of the Week are announced each Monday throughout the season, with male and female awards for all three NCAA Divisions. Nominations are open to the public and can be completed here.

Division I Men

Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, Purdue

Sophomore | Throws
Laurelton, N.Y. | Francis Lewis HS
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

With a nation-best heave of 73-0 (22.25m) in the weight throw at the Gene Edmonds Invitational at Purdue this weekend, Enekwechi broke all sorts of records — namely the meet, facility and school records at Purdue. His final margin of victory was nearly 13 feet, and surpassed 71 feet on three of his five legal attempts. He now leads Kent State’s Matthias Tayala — a sophomore, himself — by 9½ inches.

He also won the shot put with a personal-best indoor throw of 61-11 (18.87m), giving him the nation’s eighth-best mark in that event.

Honorable Mention:
Sam Kendricks, Mississippi
Demoye Bogle, Ohio State
James Harris, Florida State

Division I Women

Thea LaFond, Maryland

Junior | Combined Events
Silver Spring, Md. | Kennedy HS
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

LaFond began her day at the Penn State Indoor Relays with a collegiate-leading mark of 42-2 (12.85m) in the triple jump, and just for good measure came back that afternoon with a high jump mark of 5-11¼ (1.81m) that tied her for the early-season top mark in Division I — both wins. Her triple jump mark was good enough to clinch the win by nearly a foot-and-a-half, and is about half a foot clear of the next-closest competitor this season.

Honorable Mention:
Penn State 4×200 Relay Team with the 4×200 collegiate record
Lindsay Vollmer, Kansas
Dani Bunch, Purdue
Regine Williams, Arkansas

Division II Men

Deneko Brown, Southwest Baptist

Senior | Sprints
Nassau, Bahamas
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

Not only did Brown — in his 2014 debut — run Division II’s fastest time at 60 meters this season with a 6.70Q personal best in the prelims at the Missouri Southern Invitational, he followed it up with the year’s second fastest time of 6.73 in the final for the win. To top it all off, he claimed the 200 meters race in an indoor personal-best 21.88, giving him the third-fastest mark in Division II this season.

Honorable Mention:
Josh Edmonds, St. Augustine’s

Division II Women

Tiffany Okieme, Georgian Court

Sophomore | Throws
Bronx, N.Y. | Middletown South HS (N.J.)
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

Having already shot to the top of the Division II leaderboard in the shot put prior to the holiday break, sophomore Okieme continued her emergence onto the national scene this past weekend with the Division’s second-best weight throw mark of the season. Her winning throw of 63-10½ (19.47m) at the Bucknell Mini Meet checked in just 4½ inches shy of the national lead and was good for a nearly eight-feet margin of victory.

She also uncorked a winning shot put mark of 49-9 (15.16m) at Bucknell; not her best of the season, but still good enough to equal the best mark of Jackie Ziemke — No. 2 on the DII list for the 13-14 season.

Honorable Mention:
Ada Udaya, New Haven
Brigitte Gross, Sioux Falls

Division III Men

Michael Bennett, Chicago

Sophomore | Pole Vault
Dublin, Ohio | Dublin Coffman HS
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

So much for the oft-mentioned sophomore slump. In the very first meet of his second pole vault campaign at Chicago, Bennett cleared the bar on an all-time personal-best height of 16-¾ (4.90m) en route to winning the event at his home Phoenix Invitational. En route to becoming the first DIII man to cross the 16-feet plateau this season, he cleared his first four heights in just five attempts, including first-try clearance of a then-PR 15-11 (1.85m). His first two attempts at his eventual winning height were misses, but he regrouped and cleared it on the third shot.

Division III Women

Katie McMenamin, Swarthmore

Sophomore | Middle Distance
Lafayette, Colo. | Peak to Peak Charter
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

With the Division III lead in the mile already under her belt from pre-holiday break competition, McMenamin added to her collection with the season’s fastest Division III time at 800 meters in an indoor personal-best 2:16.13 at the NYC Gotham Cup. Racing against high school phenom Mary Cain, McMenamin finished third overall and first among Division III competitors in a five-section final featuring nearly 40 runners, missing second overall by just about a third of a second.

Honorable Mention:
Kayla Hemann, Wartburg
Amina Avril, Williams