National Athletes of the Week: Another Week, Another Vault Record
NEW ORLEANS— Another week, another vault record. This week’s new standard-setter was Shawn Barber of Akron, who set a new men’s collegiate pole vault record and won his second National Athlete of the Week award of 2015.
A vaulter has been either the Division I men’s or women’s National Athlete of the Week every week in 2015; Barber and the rest of the honorees were announced on Tuesday morning by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
The other seven winners, going DI-DII-DIII-NJCAA and alternating genders: Kendell Williams of Georgia; Lutalo Boyce of Texas A&M-Kingsville; Erika Kinsey of Central Missouri; Eric Larson of Central (Iowa); Gladys Njoku of Stevens Institute; Earnest Mosheleketi of South Plains; and Janet Amponsah of Western Texas College.
Six out of the seven–with Amponsah being the exception–are first time winners. For Central, it’s the first such honor for one of their athletes in program history.
Field eventers continue to dominate the award this year. Out of the eight winners, only Amponsah is strictly a runner, though Williams’s hurdle exploits contributed to her award and Larson is a heptathlete.
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.
Junior | Kingwood, Texas/Canada
After exceeding the old college record a month ago while competing unattached at a vault-only competition, Barber both set a personal best and officially broke the record this weekend. He cleared 5.88m (19-3.5) on his home runway at the Akron Invitational, making his first five heights before missing three attempts at six meters.
There have been 12 indoor clearances of 5.80m or higher in NCAA history, and Barber has four of them (not including his unofficial mark earlier this season). Pending ratification, this weekend’s mark is also the Canadian record.
Honorable mention: Robby Creese, Penn State and Maksim Korolev, Stanford
Sophomore | Marietta, Georgia
Three meets and ten events into her second year as a collegian, there’s been no sophomore slump for Kendell Williams. On Friday night at Virginia Tech, she won the 60 meter hurdles and tied her 8.21 personal best. Then Saturday afternoon, she increased her long jump PB by eight centimeters, leaping 6.54m (21-5.5).
Williams’s long jump is currently the collegiate leader, and her hurdles time ranks tenth in Division I. She’s also the collegiate leader in the pentathlon and one centimeter shy of the national lead in the high jump.
Honorable mention: Raven Saunders, Southern Illinois and Demi Payne, Stephen F. Austin
Sophomore | Westbury, New York
Competing close to home at the Armory, Boyce uncorked a massive long jump of 7.80m (25-7.25) to win the event at the Ramapo College Indoor Select. The sophomore was already leading the meet with a mark of 7.77m before he hit 7.80m on his fourth and final jump of the day.
The Javelina’s jump currently ranks eighth in the entire NCAA and first in Division II. This was the second straight weekend that Boyce broke the TAMU-Kingsville school record.
Honorable mention: Derrick Williams, Colorado State-Pueblo
Freshman | Naldan, Sweden
Competing at the NCAA level for the first time this year, the Swede is dominating Division II in 2015. Previously, Kinsey had posted the DII-leading marks in the high jump and pentathlon (she’s now at No. 3 in the pentathlon); this weekend she leapt 6.14m (20-1.75) in the long jump and 12.93m (42-5.25) in the triple.
The former mark ranks No. 5 in DII and the latter is the DII leader. The Central Missouri frosh won both events at Missouri Southern State’s Lion Invite, and also ran a leg on the Jennies’ 4×4.
Honorable mention: Michelle Grecni, Southern Connecticut State
Senior | Waverly, Iowa
After winning the indoor heptathlon and outdoor decathlon as a sophomore in 2013, Larson was missing from the national scene in 2014. He’s back in a big way in 2015. Competing mostly against Division I athletes at Nebraska, Larson nearly broke the Division III record in the heptathlon and won the meet.
His score of 5399 featured several near-PBs, but no new ones; it was just an extremely well-rounded performance. That score ranks second in DIII history and is only 35 points shy of the all-time best.
Honorable mention: Colt Feltes, Wartburg
Junior | Cedar Grove, New Jersey
Competing at the Ramapo College Indoor Select, Njoku cleared her first four heights without a single miss and her winning height of 1.80m (5-10.75) on her second try. That’s the fourth best jump in DIII history, and only three centimeters shy of the all-time best.
That all-time best is 1.83m, and Njoku took three cracks at it on Saturday. In 2014, Njoku was part of one of the most dramatic DIII moments of the year: a jump-off for the indoor national title in the high jump. She lost; a year later, she now has the best mark in Division III by eight centimeters.
Honorable mention: Melanie Winters, Baldwin Wallace
Sophomore | Lobatoe, Botswana
Facing of against a combination of junior college and Division I athletes at New Mexico, Mosheleketi hopped, skipped, and jumped his way to a triple jump win and an NJCAA leader on his fourth trip down the runway. In addition to leading the NJCAA, his triple jump of 15.74m (51-7.75) ranks in the top 20 for collegians across all divisions.
Honorable mention: Odean Skeen, South Plains
Sophomore | Kumasi, Ghana
Even factoring a slight penalty for competing at altitude, Amponsah’s sprint double on Friday (200m) and Saturday (60m) at New Mexico produced two NJCAA-leading marks. She achieved her 7.40 time in the 60 chasing Carmelita Jeter, taking second in the non-Division I section. And her 23.67 was good for second in her heat (third overall), beating out Texas superstars Ashley Spencer, Kendall Baisden, and Morolake Akinosun.
Honorable mention: Tynelle Gumbs, Central Arizona