Lendore, Okolo, Crouser & Williams Named National Athletes of the Year for Division I Outdoor T&F
NEW ORLEANS – Deon Lendore of Texas A&M, Ryan Crouser and Courtney Okolo of Texas, and Georgia’s Kendell Williams were announced Wednesday as National Athletes of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), based on a vote of its member coaches.
Lendore and Okolo used national titles and undefeated seasons at 400 meters, as well as crucial contributions to their respective teams’ 4×100 and 4×400 relay squads, to earn Men’s and Women’s National Track Athlete of the Year honors, respectively.
Crouser went undefeated in the shot put en route to a national title to claim the Men’s National Field Athlete of the Year award, while Williams’ Women’s National Field Athlete of the Year campaign included a national title and a U.S. Junior record in the heptathlon
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Lendore, a junior from Arima, Trinidad & Tobago, capped an undefeated season in four finals at 400 meters with his first outdoor national title in the event. He crossed the line in 45.02 to edge out Oregon’s Mike Berry at the line by .05.
He went on to anchor the Aggies’ 4×400 relay team to within .01 of the collegiate record with a 44.11 split to bring A&M across the line in 2:59.60 – the second-fastest time in collegiate history. He also ran a leg of Texas A&M’s runner-up 4×100 relay.
His win at 400 meters in 44.36 at the SEC Championships moved him up to No. 8 on the all-time collegiate performers list. It was his second sub-45 performance of the season – a barrier no other collegian crossed in 2014.
He again anchored the 4×400 and 4×100 relays to titles at the SEC Championships.
Crouser, a junior from Boring, Ore., was among the nation’s elite throwers in 2014 as one of just two men to finish the season among the top 10 collegians in both the shot put and the discus.
He concluded an undefeated season in four shot put finals with an NCAA title after heaving a mark of 69-3½ (21.12m) on his final attempt to win by more than three feet.
All told, he recorded the top eight marks of the 2014 collegiate season, including a Big 12-winning distance of 70-2¼ (21.39m) to make him the first collegian since 2010 The Bowerman Semifinalist Ryan Whiting of Arizona State to break the 70-feet barrier.
He also won the discus title at the Big 12 Championships among victories in four of his five discus competitions.
The star of the women’s competition at the Big 12 Championships was Okolo, a sophomore from Carrollton, Texas, who broke the collegiate record at 400 meters with a time of 50.03. The time was .07 faster than the previous record held by Monique Henderson of UCLA from 2005.
Okolo added another all-time top-five performance at 400 meters a month later when she won the NCAA title in the event in 50.23 by more than a third of a second over indoor 400 meters collegiate record holder Phyllis Francis of Oregon.
The following day she ran anchor on the Longhorns’ third-place 4×100 relay before closing the weekend as the anchor on Texas’ winning 4×400 relay. Okolo’s split of 49.58 was among the fastest in meet history to bring the Longhorns in to a 3:24.21 finish for a new meet record and the No. 2 time in collegiate history.
Another 4×400 relay record fell to Okolo’s Longhorns as they broke the Penn Relays mark with a 3:25.05, during which Okolo ran a 49.7 split on the second leg.
Williams, a freshman from Marietta, Ga., was perfect in her collegiate debut campaign with three wins in three heptathlon competitions – including a U.S. Junior record and an NCAA individual title.
In her first collegiate heptathlon at the Georgia Bulldog Heptathlon she became the first American junior to break the 6000-point barrier with a score of 6018, before going on to claim an SEC title in the event later in the season.
She concluded her fantastic frosh season with a national title in the event, scoring 5854 points to become the first first-year collegian to win the event since Jackie Johnson of Arizona State in 2004.
Her clearance of 6-0 (1.83m) in the high jump component at the Georgia Bulldog Heptathlon made her one of 17 collegiate women this season to break the six-feet threshold.
Photos courtesy USTFCCCA and Image of Sport.