Women’s Semifinalists Announced for the Wide-Open Race for The Bowerman Trophy
June 24, 2014
NEW ORLEANS – A week filled with upsets and surprises at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., turned an already tight race for the Women’s Bowerman Trophy into an even more wide-open affair, as evidenced by the 10 Semifinalists announced Tuesday by The Bowerman Advisory Board.
Only five members of the pre-Championships Watch List ultimately ended up among the 10 Semifinalists for collegiate track & field’s highest individual honor, all of whom are among this group of 10 for the first time in their careers.
This group, similar to the men announced Monday, is the youngest crop of Women’s Semifinalists since 2010 when Semifinalists were first named. Among their ranks are five underclassmen and just the second-ever true first-year collegian Women’s Semifinalist in Georgia’s Kendell Williams.
From these 10 women, three finalists will be announced on July 10 before voting – including an online fan vote – opens July 28. The winner of collegiate track & field’s highest individual honor will be announced December 17 at the annual U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Convention.
The Bowerman Women’s Semifinalists
(Click student-athletes’ names for biographies & Notes)
The divide between youth and experience is especially distinct as the four seniors (Oregon’s Laura Roesler and Phyllis Francis; Arkansas State’s Sharika Nelvis; San Diego State’s Shanieka Thomas) and one junior (Remona Burchell, Alabama) on the list are balanced out by a true freshman (Williams) and four sophomores (Texas’ Courtney Okolo; Oregon’s Jenna Prandini; Princeton’s Julia Ratcliffe; Texas A&M’s Shelbi Vaughan), all with the potential for long collegiate careers and more Semifinalist appearances ahead of them.
Of those four seniors, three were able to complete the indoor and outdoor sweep in their respective signature events to cap their collegiate careers.
Senior Sharika Nelvis of Arkansas State capped an undefeated season in hurdle events of 100 meters or fewer with a 100-meter hurdles win at NCAAs in 12.52w (+2.8m/s) for the third-fastest all-conditions time in meet history and the 2014 all-conditions world lead.
Among her 10 other wins in sprint hurdle finals was the NCAA Indoor 60-meter hurdles crown by thousandths of a second. She is both Arkansas State’s and the Sun Belt Conference’s first Semifinalist, regardless of gender.
Oregon senior Laura Roesler – one of three Lady Ducks to be named a Semifinalist, the most by a single team in one year regardless of gender – was likewise undefeated at 800 meters in races she finished. Her senior campaign culminated in a nearly two-second victory in front of her home crowd in 2:01.22, turning on the jets in the final 200 meters following a dangerous stumble.
Outside of a DNF at the MPSF Championships indoor, she was unbeaten in seven races including an NCAA Indoor title.
Between Roesler and teammates Phyllis Francis and Jenna Prandini, Oregon has now had nine Women’s Semifinalists – more than twice the total of Texas A&M’s four as the next-best on the list. This is the third time in the past four years Oregon has had multiple women’s Semifinalists (2011 – Jordan Hasay and Brianne Theisen; 2012 – Brianne Theisen and English Gardner).
No collegian could defeat San Diego State senior Shanieka Thomas in the triple jump this year, a trend that continued with Thomas’ nearly foot-and-a-half victory at NCAAs with a leap of 45-11¼ (14.00m). Between indoors and outdoors, she emerged victorious over rival collegians in seven triple jump finals, among which were an indoor NCAA title. She is both San Diego State’s and the Mountain West Conference’s first Semifinalist, regardless of gender.
Oregon senior Phyllis Francis, the American- and collegiate-records holder at 400 meters indoors was unable to fully carry over her winter successes to the outdoor circuit, but was able to do enough to let her indoor heroics lift her to Semifinalist status.
She finished runner-up at 400 meters to another collegiate-record-holding Semifinalist in Texas’ Courtney Okolo, and anchored the Ducks to a third-place 4×400 relay showing – the same race in which she clinched the Ducks’ national indoor team title with a lean at the finish line to edge out Texas and set the collegiate record.
Alabama junior Remona Burchell was not undefeated at 100 meters this season, but no one beat her in the biggest races of the year at the NCAA Championships. Running into a stiff headwind, she outclassed the field in Eugene to win by nearly a tenth of a second in 11.25.
She also claimed the indoor 60 meters national title earlier in the winter, and is Alabama’s first Women’s Semifinalist.
True first-year collegian Kendell Williams of Georgia was the lone Semifinalist among herself and the four sophomores to sweep indoor and outdoor national titles. After claiming the collegiate and World Junior pentathlon records indoors, she won the heptathlon title in Oregon with a score of 5854.
Paving the way for the win was a scintillating 12.99 in the 100-meter hurdles component, which set collegiate and NCAA Championships records for the heptathlon and moved her to No. 1 on the 2014 World Junior list and No. 9 on the all-time World Junior list.
She is Georgia’s first Semifinalist, regardless of gender, and the second true first-year collegiate woman to earn that distinction, joining Ashley Spencer of Illinois from 2012.
Sophomore Jenna Prandini of Oregon didn’t need to be entered in the heptathlon to do a little bit of everything en route to a 24-point weekend – most by a female student-athlete since 2001. She won the long jump and came within a thousandth of a second of becoming just the second woman in Division I history to win both in the long jump and at 200 meters. She also finished third at 100 meters and was poised to run a leg of the 4×100 relay before her team was unable to finish.
While Francis was the quarter-mile star at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships, that role was played in Eugene by Texas sophomore Courtney Okolo.
Already the outdoor collegiate record-holder in the event, she claimed the open 400 meters title in 50.23 for the No. 5 performance in collegiate history before anchoring the Longhorns to a meet-record 3:24.21 in the 4×400 relay. Her split? 49.58, the best ever by an underclassman and the third-fastest overall in meet history.
She is Texas’ first Women’s Semifinalist.
While sophomore throwers Shelbi Vaughan of Texas A&M and Julia Ratcliffe of Princeton only compete outdoors in their signature events, they took advantage of their chance to shine on the big stage at the NCAA Championships.
Vaughan lived dangerously with two fouls on her first two attempts before ultimately recording a fair mark on her third to advance to the finals. Her mark of 196-11 (60.02m) was ultimately the winning mark, but she could have won with any of her three legal throws.
Ratcliffe put all six of her throws in the sector in the hammer throw competition, including her winning mark of 219-5 (66.88m) among three throws that would have won the competition. She is the first woman from Princeton to have been named a Semifinalist.
Biographies on each of the members of the Semifinalists can be found here.
ABOUT THE BOWERMAN
The Bowerman Trophy, which was first awarded in 2009, is presented annually by the USTFCCCA to the most outstanding male and female collegiate track & field athletes in the nation.
Indiana’s Derek Drouin and Clemson’s Brianna Rollins are the reigning winners of The Bowerman, which is named for legendary Oregon track & field and cross country coach Bill Bowerman. In addition to their collegiate achievements, Rollins is the reigning World Champion in the 100 meter hurdles — an event for which she also holds the American Record — while Drouin has won bronze medals at both the 2012 Olympics and 2013 IAAF World Championships.
Past winners include Olympic gold medalist, World Champion and decathlon world-record holder Ashton Eaton (2010); 10,000-meter Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp (2009); and 2011 IAAF World Champion at 1500 meters, Jenny Simpson (2009).
In total, the winners from the award’s first four years have won three Olympic Medals, six World Championships (one relay, two indoor) and 11 World Championships medals (two relay, one indoor). When considering finalists for the award, 13 individuals have earned a combined six Olympic medals, eight World Championships (one relay, four indoor) and 23 World Championships medals (three realy, six indoor).
Former winners of and finalists for The Bowerman currently hold 21 national records. Each former winner of the men’s Bowerman Trophy holds at least two national records, while two of the five women’s winners are current national record-holders.
Bowerman served the sport of track and field in numerous ways. His leadership in the USTFCCCA’s predecessor organization, the National Collegiate Track Coaches Association, and his contributions to NCAA track and field and the running community as a whole are among his many lasting legacies.
For more information on The Bowerman, the award, the trophy and Bill Bowerman himself, visit TheBowerman.org.
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.