Record-Breakers Payne and Lihrman Lead National Athlete of the Week Selections
NEW ORLEANS— Didn’t set a collegiate or NCAA Division I record this week? That’s what it took to earn National Athlete of the Week honors at the NCAA DI level this week from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin turned in a pair of collegiate pole vault records to earn the women’s DI award for the second week in a row, while Michael Lihrman of Wisconsin took the men’s DI honor for his DI weight throw record and his general revision of the event’s collegiate all-time list. He is also a two-time honoree, dating back to 2014 when he set his previous NCAA DI record.
Click each of the student-athletes’ names above or keep scrolling below to read about the exploits that made all eight worthy.
National Athlete of the Week is an award selected and presented by the USTFCCCA Communications Staff at the beginning of each week to eight (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions, plus the NJCAA) collegiate track & field athletes.
Nominations are open to the public. Coaches and sports information directors are encouraged to nominate their student-athletes; as are student-athletes, their families and friends, and fans of their programs.
The award seeks to highlight not only the very best times, marks and scores on a week-to-week basis, but also performances that were significant on the national landscape and/or the latest in a series of strong outings. Quality of competition, suspenseful finishes and other factors will also play a role in the decision.
Senior | Rice Lake, Wisconsin
As far as season debuts go, they don’t get much better than Michael Lihrman’s. Competing for the first time in 2015 in a dual against rival Minnesota, the defending NCAA weight throw champion became just the second collegian to throw farther than 80 feet, uncorking a gigantic 80-3½ (24.47m) heave on his very first attempt of the season. The mark broke his own NCAA Division I record, and put him ever closer to toppling the collegiate record of 82-3½ (25.08m) held by Kibwe Johnson of Division II Ashland.
Watch it for yourself here:
Lihrman wasn’t done there, though. He followed his record-breaker with four more throws of 24.36m, 24.29m, 24.13m and 24.12. Why is this significant? Entering the day, only four men had combined for six throws of 24 meters or farther. He now owns the No. 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9 throws in collegiate history.
On the all-time American list, Lihrman checked in at No. 5 on the all-time indoor list. The weight throw is a predominantly North American event (it is not an event for which the IAAF compiles annual lists), so he also jumped up to No. 6 in world history.
Honorable mention: Edward Cheserek, Oregon; Jarvis Gotch, Louisiana Tech; Trayvon Bromell, Baylor
Junior | New Braunfels, Texas
There are several well-established pole vault competitions during this early portion of the indoor track & field season: Texas Vault Expo, UCS Pole Vault Summit, and the Akron Pole Vault Convention, to name a few. Add to that list of pole vaulting spectacles whichever meet Stephen F. Austin’s Demi Payne happens to be competing in on a given weekend. This weekend it was the New Mexico Lobo Collegiate Challenge.
National Athlete of the Week for the second weekend in a row, the Lumberjack again broke the collegiate record in the pole vault on her first attempt down the runway, this time not just doing it once, but twice. After clearing her first three heights on her first attempts, she went up and over the bar on her first try at 15-3 (4.65m) to break her former collegiate record by two centimeters. She raised the bar another 10 centimeters to 15-7 (4.75m) and then this happened on her first go at the bar:
We chronicled in-depth how high that vault launched her into the pole vault record books on both the American and world stage, but here’s some highlights: equal to No. 3 in American history, equal to No. 11 in world history, best jump ever by an American in the month of January, fourth-best January jump in the history of the world.
She’s back in action this weekend at Houston.
Honorable mention: Kendell Williams, Georgia; Dominique Scott, Arkansas; Keturah Orji, Georgia
Senior | St. Paul, Minnesota
A senior competing in his first indoor season for Minnesota State after two years at Butler County Community College and another year at Louisville, Matadi is making the most of his final collegiate season. Not only did he set the NCAA Division II lead at 60 meters at the SMU Multi-Open in the middle of last week, he did it three times.
He ran a career-best 6.68 in the preliminaries, followed that up with another 6.68 in the semifinals and capped off the day with a win in the final in a blistering 6.66. On a weekend featuring such sprinting stalwarts as Trayvon Bromell, Trentavis Friday, Jalen Miller and many more in a loaded field at Kentucky, Matadi’s final performance earned him a share of the 10th-fastest time of the weekend. He is currently tied at No. 12 on the all-college performers list in the event.
Honorable Mention: Seun Ogunmodede, Colorado Mines
Junior | St. Joseph, Missouri
Season debuts don’t get much better than the one turned in by Central Missouri thrower Heavin Warner at her home UCMO Invite. In her first indoor competition since finishing fourth at NCAAs in the weight throw with a near-PR 18.72m (her best before this weekend was 18.79m) she shattered her personal record books with an impressive winning 68-4¼ (20.83m) heave that shot her up to No. 2 in NCAA Division II and ninth among all collegians.
Each of her four legal throws destroyed her former personal bests in the event. In addition to her career-best, which came on the second attempt, she notched heaves of 20.03m, 20.16m and 19.41m.
She also established a new indoor shot put career best with a winning mark of 46-6¼ (14.18m).
Honorable mention: Ewa Zaborowska, Harding; Kendra Averesch, Findlay
Senior | Watervliet, New York
After a successful weekend at the Upstate Challege in Ithaca, New York, Melique Garcia finds himself atop the Division III qualifying list at 200 meters and No. 2 on the descending order list at 60 meters.
He finished third in a DIII-leading 22.17 at 200 meters – the top time in the country by nearly two-tenths of a second – and was runner-up at 60 meters in 6.86, just four-hundredths of a second shy of both his career-best and the No. 1 spot in DIII this season.
He also ran a 6.88 in the prelims.
Honorable mention: Joseph Jensen, Hamilton; Jeffrey Jon Tucker, Rowan; Luke Winder & Travis Morrison, North Central (Ill.)
Senior | Woodinville, Washington
Competing on the banked track at Birmingham, Alabama’s CrossPlex in the Emory CrossPlex Invitational, Korn turned in a 200-meter/400-meter double that landed her at or near the top of both events on the national lists.
She won at 400 meters in a near-PR 56.57 to claim the top spot on the qualifying list (converted to 57.33 for a flat track, on which NCAAs will be held) and her raw time is nearly a second faster than anyone else’s in the country,
Then at 200 meters, she completed her lap around the CrossPlex in 25.18, the fastest raw time of the DIII season and No. 2 on the qualifying list when converted to 25.57,
Honorable mention: Amber Williams, UW-Platteville; Melanie Brickner, UW-Oshkosh
Sophomore | New Rochelle, New York
Barrow, just a sophomore at Delhi, entered this indoor season with a career-best in the high jump of 6-8 (2.03m). Just two competitions into his 2015 campaign, he’s already raised the bar into the seven-foot club. He won the Wesleyan Invitational with an NJCAA-leading leap of 7-1 (2.16m). That’s five centimeters superior to the winning 6-11 (2.11m) jump by Damar Robinson of Cloud County CC to win NJCAAs indoors a year ago.
He also notched a win in the triple jump at 47-4¼ (14.43m).
Sophomore | Kumasi, Ghana
Competing at altitude at the same Lobo Collegiate Open meet as Division I women’s honoree Demi Payne, Amponsah posted the top times for NJCAA at both 60 and 200 meters.
Just a sophomore, her 7.41 in the prelims at 60 meters – a time that was superior to the winning 7.49; Amponsah did not compete in the final, nor did top seed Olympic Champion long jumper Brittany Reese – tops the NJCAA descending order list by two-tenths of a second, ever after the altitude-adjustment to 7.43 for qualifying.
The posted the meet’s second-fastest time at 200 meters, as well. She traversed a lap around the track in 24.01, which is nearly half a second faster than the next-best time on the list, even after conversion to 24.08.