National Athletes of the Week Provide Fireworks for 2014 Outdoor T&F Regular Season Finale

By Kyle Terwillegar, USTFCCCA

May 19, 2014   

NEW ORLEANS – A new collegiate record. A triple crown at the SEC Championships. An all-time great distance showdown.

After the regular-season-finale performances turned in by this week’s National Athletes of the Week, the NCAA Championships can’t come soon enough.

Texas’ Courtney Okolo set a collegiate 400 meters record and Texas A&M’s Olivia Ekponé claimed three SEC titles – including two in wind-legal collegiate-leading fashion – to split the women’s Division I National Athlete of the Week honor, while Arizona’s Lawi Lalang avenged his indoor championships loss to Oregon’s Edward Cheserek to claim the men’s honor.

These are the final National Athletes of the Week for the 2013-14 academic year. Honors were not awarded in Division II as its regular season ended last weekend.

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..

Division I Men

Division I Women

Division I Women

Lawi Lalang
Lawi Lalang
(Arizona)

Olivia Ekpone
Olivia Ekponé
(Texas A&M)

Courtney Okolo
Courtney Okolo
(Texas)

Division III Men Division III Women
Tyler Williams
Tyler Williams
(Widener)
Anna Etherington
Anna Etherington
(Washington (Mo.))

 

Okolo’s (Carrollton, Texas/Newman Smith HS) scintillating sprint over 400 meters in 50.03 was fast enough not only to claim the Big 12 title by nearly half a second over teammate Kendall Baisden, but also the collegiate record.

The sophomore’s nearly half-second win over Baisden, who herself notched the No. 7 spot on the all-time collegiate list in 50.46, surpassed the previous record of 50.10 set by UCLA’s Monique Henderson at the NCAA Championships in 2005.

She qualified for the final in a then-collegiate-leading 50.76, and ran a leg of the winning 4×100 relay. She finished eighth at 200 meters in 23.33w (+4.3m/s) after posting the prelims’ third-best time in a personal-best 23.17.

Ekponé (Germantown, Md./Northwest HS) had an historic weekend of her own at the SEC Championships. The junior claimed the 200 meters title in a world-leading, meet-record 22.23 (-0.8m/s) by nearly half a second over 2014 indoor 200 meters champion Dezerea Bryant of Kentucky, a member of The Bowerman Watch List, to jump into a tie at No. 3 on the all-time collegiate list. The mark is equal to the time Carol Rodriguez of Southern California ran in 2006.

She also bested a 2014 indoor national champ to win at 100 meters in a wind-legal collegiate-leading 11.11 (+1.3m/s) (tied with Oregon’s Jenna Prandini), this time defeating Alabama’s 60 meters champ Remona Burchell by .01 and Bryant again by .12.

To cap off the weekend, she split a 49.9 to anchor the Aggies’ 4×400 relay to the win.

After frosh sensation Edward Cheserek of Oregon dashed his hopes for a triple crown at the indoor championships, Lalang (Eldoret, Kenya/Emining HS) earned a measure of revenge at the outdoor Pac-12 Championships by outkicking his nemesis for the 1500 meters crown in one of the fastest races in collegiate history.

A wire-to-wire battle between the two culminated in a final 100-meter kick as Lalang was able to hold off Cheserek by just .16 of a second with a collegiate-leading 3:36.34 win – with the rest of the field more than six seconds behind. The time moved Lalang up to No. 7 on the all-time collegiate list, and with Cheserek ending up No. 9, their duel goes down in history as the distance’s only race with two current all-time top 10 performers.

Later that afternoon, Lalang would come back and win the 5000 meters crown in 13:41.44 by nearly four seconds over the Oregon duo of Trevor Dunbar and Eric Jenkins.

On the final weekend of Division III action before the National Championships at Ohio Wesleyan on May 22-24, a pair of student-athletes recorded all-time great performances to earn National Athlete of the Week honors.

Hammer thrower Tyler Williams of Widener (Hanover, Pa./South Western HS) moved up to No. 3 on the all-time Division III list with a winning throw of 216-5 (65.97m) to win the ECAC Division III Championships. In addition to his winning throw, which was a personal best by nearly three feet, he also posted a mark of 208-6 (63.57m) that was better than any mark posted by any other Division III competitor this season.

Pole vaulter Anna Etherington of Washington (Mo.) (Deer Park, Ill./Barrington HS) made a similar splash in the Division III record books, leaping to No. 4 all-time in the pole vault with a clearance of 13-5¾ (4.11m) at the North Central (Ill.) Gregory Final Qualifier. She survived a third-attempt clearance at 12-11½ (3.95m) before clearing her final two heights on second attempts.

The clearance was a season’s best by more than four inches, and a career-best by more than two.

 

ABOUT THE USTFCCCA

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) is a non-profit professional organization representing cross country and track & field coaches of all levels. The organization represents over 8,000 coaching members encompassing 94% of all NCAA track & field programs (DI, DII, and DIII) and includes members representing the NAIA as well as a number of state high school coaches associations. The USTFCCCA serves as an advocate for cross country and track & field coaches, providing a leadership structure to assist the needs of a diverse membership, serving as a lobbyist for coaches’ interests, and working as a liaison between the various stakeholders in the sports of cross country and track & field.