Relay Heroes and Record Breakers Earn Outdoor T&F National Athlete of the Week Honors
NEW ORLEANS – From dramatic finishes and dominant performances to conference championship glory and runs & jumps for the record books, this week’s class of National Athletes of the Week announced Monday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) had it all.
USTFCCCA National Athletes of the Week
Click on the photos for the student-athlete’s section of the article. Click on their names for TFRRS profile, and the school name for their school bio..
The middle-distance relays at the historic Penn Relays meet produced both the men’s and women’s Division I honorees in Oregon’s Edward Cheserek (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict Prep) and Villanova’s Emily Lipari (Greenvale, N.Y./Roslyn HS), but the manner in which they won could not be more different.
She rallied her team to come-from-behind victories in both the distance medley and 4×1500 relays on Thursday and Friday before holding off 2014 indoor 800 meters champion Laura Roesler of Oregon for a third relay win in the 4×800 on Saturday.
After receiving the baton in fourth in Thursday’s DMR, she closed her 1600-meter anchor leg in a race-best 4:33.44 to edge Stanford’s Aisling Cuffe in the final meters by less than a third of a second. She again outkicked Cuffe on the final straight the next day to claim the 4×1500 win with a 4:16.4 split.
While she came back for her first two wins, she had to hold on for her third as she ran a 2:03.50 anchor and kicked away from Roesler, again on the final straightaway, to claim the 4×800.
Cheserek, on the other hand, did not allow the field to get close enough during his legs of the distance medley and 4xMile relays to set up a photo finish in his first trip to the Penn Relays with Oregon.
In what has become his trademark, the frosh took off from the lead pack with 300 meters to go for 3:57.98 on his anchor 1600-meter leg to bring Oregon to a three-second DMR win.
He one-upped himself 24 hours later as he ran 3:56.4 with a blistering final 600-meter kick on the second leg of Oregon’s 4xMile relay to blow that race wide open and propel Oregon to a 16:09.67 – the fourth-fastest time in meet history and the best since the meet-record 16:04.54 by Michigan in 2005.
Also at Penn, Samantha Elliott of Johnson C. Smith (Kingston, Jamaica) earned the Division II Women’s National Athlete of the Week award after winning the 400-meter hurdles championship in 56.63 by more than two-thirds of a second over Division I and Jamaican competition. She trailed early, but proved to be the strongest in the field after taking the lead halfway down the final straight.
That ranks her third among all collegians in 2014, and is less than a third of a second shy of her PR of 56.38, which came in a national-title performance a year ago at NCAAs. Her aforementioned PR is the second fastest in Division II history, which came after running a second slower at Penn last year than she did this past weekend.
While those three were dominating in Philadelphia, the remaining three honorees were logging phenomenal performances from coast to coast.
Jordan Edwards of Academy of Art (Denver, Colo./Heritage HS) took the men’s Division II honor after winning individual titles at the PacWest Championships at 100 meters (10.61), 200 meters (21.38) and his signature 400 meters (47.93) while also running legs of the Urban Knights’ winning 4×100 and 4×400 teams – eight races total, including prelims, for 35 team points. The junioralso remained the top 400-meters runner in Division II for 2014.
On the opposite side of the country, Ashante Little of Wheaton (Mass.) (Seabrook, N.H./Winnacunnet HS) earned the Division III women’s honor for the second consecutive weekend after breaking the all-time Division III record in the 400-meter hurdles by half a second with a 58.56 to win the NEWMAC Championship.
In just her second 400 hurdles race of the season, she bettered the 25-year-old record of 58.99 set by Carolyn Ross of Augsburg at the 1989 NCAA Championships, which had been the second-longest standing DIII women’s record on the books.
Just for good measure, she added a title in the 100-meter hurdles in a Division III-leading 14.10 and ran a leg of the winning 4×100 relay.
Meanwhile a long way from either coast, Trevor James of Carthage (Maywood, Ill./Chicago-Hope Academy) recorded one of Division III’s all-time best high jump performances at the Drake Relays to claim the DIII men’s award. The senior finished runner-up among heavy Division I competition after clearing six heights without a miss through 7-2½ (2.20m) to leap to a share of No. 3 on the all-time Division III performance list.
The last time anyone in Division III soared as high was Raheim Greenridge of Wheaton (Mass.) as he was setting the NCAA Championships record in 2000 with an identical height to James’.
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.