Small-School DI Sprinters Put Up Big-Time National Athlete of the Week Performances
NEW ORLEANS – Northwestern State’s Justin Walker and Arkansas State’s Sharika Nelvis may hail from smaller schools, but their performances at conference championship meets this past weekend were anything but en route to National Athlete of the Week honors from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Monday.
Walker (Slidell, La./Northshore HS) blazed to an all-conditions world-leading 9.95w (+2.5m/s) as part of a big weekend at the Southland Conference Championships, while Nelvis (Memphis, Tenn./Northside HS) remained undefeated in the short hurdles finals in 2014 while scoring a whopping 38 points at the Sun Belt Championships.
Division II saw New Mexico Highland’s Salcia Slack (Kingston, Jamaica) top the all-time DII heptathlon record as a part of a massive RMAC Championships performance, while Findlay’s Justin Welch (Luckey, Ohio/Eastwood HS/Georgia) continued his relentless march toward the top of the all-time DII hammer throw list.
Both Division III awards came as a result of titles at the NEICAAA Championships as Jana Hieber of Tufts (Goffstown, N.H./Goffstown HS) came within the blink of an eye of the Division III women’s 400-meter hurdles record, while Bowdoin’s Jacob Ellis (Brattleboro, Vt./Brattleboro Union HS) edged out the top spot on the 800 meters performance list.
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..
With his wind-aided 9.95, Walker became the first collegian this season to run a sub-10 qualifying time (+4.0m/s or weaker wind). Prior to the 100 meters final, his wind-legal, personal-best 10.16 in the prelims was good for the top seed.
His blistering final performance made him just the third man in the world in 2014 to have run faster than 10 seconds, ahead of the 9.98 by Simon Magakwe and 9.98w by 2013 NCAA Champion Charles Silmon, formerly of TCU, for the all-conditions world lead.
His weekend at the Southland meet also included a personal-best 20.47 to win the 200 meters title, and a leg of the winning 4×100 relay.
Nelvis continued an undefeated 10-meet winning streak in the short hurdles (55-, 60- and 100-meters) dating back to the beginning indoor season with a 12.67w (+3.5m/s) 100-meter hurdles title at the Sun Belt Championships.
The time boosted the indoor 60-meter hurdles national champ to the top of the outdoor national qualifying list ahead of The Bowerman Watch List member Kendra Harrison of Kentucky, and to No. 4 on the all-condition world list for 2014.
That race was good for only 10 of her meet-best 38 points as she also won both at 100 meters in a career-best 11.27 and at 200 meters in 22.70w (+5.9m/s), while finishing runner-up in the long jump on a tiebreak with an outdoor career-best 20-7 (6.27m).
With the RMAC Championships concluding on Monday last week, a DII-record 5833 score from Slack to win the heptathlon title missed last week’s award deadline, but it — in conjuction with a 54-point scoring effort — more than held up to claim the DII women’s award this week.
Among the performances that sealed the score were a 14.05 personal best in the 100-meter hurdles into a 1.1m/s headwind and a personal best 147-2 (44.87m) mark in the javelin. The junior won six of the seven events to surpass the all-time Division II best of 5807w by Lindsay Lettow of Central Missouri at the 2012 Olympic Trials and jump to No. 3 on the 2014 all-college list. Her score stands as the best in Division II this season by more than 600 points.
If the DII record wasn’t enough, she went on to score 44 more points for her team in individual and relay events. She earned additional titles in the 100-meter hurdles, the javelin and the triple jump, finished runner-up individual in the long jump and as a team in the 4×400 relay, and logged a fifth-place shot put showing.
Welch earned the Division II men’s honor with a monster hammer throw mark of 239-3 (72.93m) at the Toledo Invitational that not only moved him up to No. 2 in the country for 2014 after this season’s biggest weekend of hammer throw action yet, but also improved his standing as the No. 2 all-time thrower in Division II history.
He threw personal best marks at Toledo not once, not twice, but three times in his final four throws of the day. After heaves of 235-6 (71.80m) and 236-0 (71.94m) on his third and fifth attempts, he uncorked his winning throw for a three-foot personal best from just moments earlier.
He also finished runner-up in the discus at 165-0 (50.29m).
Division III women’s honoree Hieber almost had a Division record of her own after winning the NEICAAA Championships 400-meter hurdles in 58.58, just .02 shy of Wheaton’s (Mass.) Ashante Little DIII record set just last month.
The senior broke the 60-second barrier for the first time in her career with a preliminary-round 59.86 before going 58.58 in the final to win by nearly three seconds. She is just the third woman in Division III history to have ever run faster than 59 seconds in the event.
In what ended up being a battle for Division III’s top qualifying time at 800 meters, Ellis edged out the field by less than half a second, including third-place and DIII No. 3 Mitchell Black of Tufts. The victory over Black was redemption for the Bowdoin sophomore, who lost out to the Tufts sophomore by .15 of a second for the NESCAC title at 800 meters.
Ellis is the only DIII man to have run faster than 1:50 at 800 meters so far this season either indoors or outdoors.
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.