National Athletes of the Week Tear Up Lists and Record Books
NEW ORLEANS— Two division records highlighted this week’s National Athlete of the Week awards, which the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced on Tuesday morning. Adams State’s Tabor Stevens broke the Division II men’s steeplechase record, and MIT’s Cimran Virdi broke the Division III women’s pole vault record.
Four athletes won their second track honor of 2015. Salcia Slack of New Mexico Highlands won her third Division II women’s AOW, Chrisann Gordon won her fourth NJCAA DI women’s honor, Walter Briggs won his second NJCAA DIII men’s award, and Tristan Bevans won her second NJCAA DIII women’s award.
Our two Division I winners turned in top ten all-time performances and won their events in California. USC hammer thrower Conor McCullough and UMKC steeplechaser Courtney Frerichs won their specialty events at the USC-UCLA dual and Payton Jordan, respectively.
National Athlete of the Week is an award selected and presented by the USTFCCCA Communications Staff at the beginning of each week to ten (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions and the two NJCAA divisions) 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.
RS Senior | Canoga Park, California
Competing in the hotly contested USC-UCLA dual, McCullough launched the five best hammer throws of the 2015 collegiate season. The sixth-year senior topped out at 75.88m (248-11), winning by over nine meters. That puts him seventh on the all-time in-season list; his 77.21 lifetime best was achieved outside of the collegiate season last summer. McCullough also took fourth in the discus on Sunday. After taking second to Wisconsin’s Michael Lihrman in a thrilling weight throw at indoor nationals, McCullough leads Lihrman by 1.80 meters in the hammer this outdoor season.
Honorable mentions: Shawn Barber, Akron; Brannon Kidder, Penn State; Stanley Kebenei, Arkansas
Senior | Nixa, Missouri
Only the two fastest women in American history are ahead of Frerichs on the all-time collegiate steeplechase list. Racing at Stanford against 2013 NCAA runner-up Colleen Quigley of Florida State, Frerichs won in 9:32.12–the fifth-fastest time in collegiate history and a sixteen second improvement over her winning time on the same Palo Alto track a month ago. She needed every second of that all-time performance, as Quigley moved to No. 4 on the all-time collegaite performers list at 9:33.63 – the sixth-fastest collegiate time ever.
Jenny Simpson and Emma Coburn of Colorado are the two women that ran faster during the collegiate season; Simpson did so three times and Coburn did so once.
After Quigley and pro Aisha Praught took an early three-second lead over the field, Frerichs fought back to join the lead group with two laps to go and made a strong move to take the lead halfway through that penultimate lap. She led by a second at the bell, and wouldn’t relinquish that advantage over the final 400 meters.
Frerichs’s time from Saturday night is four seconds faster than what Leah O’Connor ran to win outdoor nationals last year.
Honorable mention: Emily Sisson, Providence; Brook Pleger, Bowling Green; Tori Bliss, LSU
RS Senior | Canon City, Colorado
Last time Stevens raced at Stanford, he won in a world-leading time and was named National Athlete of the Week. In his second trip there this season, he only took fifth place, but he ran five seconds faster and snatched the Division II national record. Stevens’s time of 8:26.81 broke a record that Western State’s Kim Hogarth set as a thirty-two-year-old senior at the same meet–Payton Jordan–in 2007. The Adams State Grizzly has the fastest time in DII by twenty-four seconds, the second fastest time among all collegians, and the fifth fastest time in the world.
Honorable mention: Jeffrey Fraley, Missouri Southern
Senior | Kingston, Jamaica
Slack scored an outrageous fifty-nine points to lead New Mexico Highlands to its first ever Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) team title. She dominated the heptathlon with 5,361 points, winning four out of seven events and coming within 0.04 of winning the 800. In her seven open events–meaning she competed fourteen times in three days–she won the 400 and triple jump, took second in the 100 hurdles by 0.02 to a teammate, finished third in the shot put, long jump, and 400 hurdles, and was sixth in the javelin. This weekend was her career debut in the 400 hurdles; her time of 59.64 in the prelims was nearly two seconds faster that the winning time in the final.
Her 400 time of 54.57 was a career best, as was her 13.57 in the 100 hurdles. Slack is in the DII top ten in seven events, including a No. 1 ranking in the triple jump and heptathlon. This is her third National Athlete of the Week honor this year.
Honorable mention: Erika Kinsey, Central Missouri and Lindsey Butterworth, Simon Fraser
Senior | Auburn, California
Centi took over the No. 1 spot in the DIII 400, winning the SCIAC championship in a new career best of 47.16 seconds. He also won a conference title in the 200 and anchored the second-place 4×400. The Occidental track has been kind to Centi over the last two years: all four times that he’s broken 48 seconds in his career have come on the Oxy track.
Honorable mention: Brandon Zarnoth, UW-Eau Claire
Junior | Walnut Creek, California
Virdi broke the Division III national record in the vault on her home runway this weekend. With her New England DIII championship-winning clearance of 4.27m (14-0), she became the third woman in DIII history over 4.20 meters and the first over fourteen feet. Virdi entered at 3.77m, then cleared 3.87, 3.97, 4.07, and 4.22 before her record jump, which she made on her second attempt at the height. She then took three cracks at 4.32 before bowing out.
The MIT junior has now won eight straight meets, including indoor nationals in March. She’s the national leader by 22cm–eight and a half inches. That mark is tied for fifteenth among all collegians this year and would be No. 1 in every division except Division I. It also puts her in the top forty women in the world this year.
— Coach Weber (@JWeberpv) May 4, 2015
Honorable mention: Meg Heafy, UW-La Crosse and Carly Fehler, UW-Eau Claire
Sophomore | Point Fortin, Trinidad & Tobago
Richards is the NJCAA indoor champ at 400 meters, and now he has the fastest outdoor 400 time of the season. He won the event at Texas Tech in 45.91 seconds; even when altitude-converted up to 46.02, that’s a big PB and the fastest NJCAA DI time of the year. He also ran the 200 at the Red Raider Open, taking fourth in a season best of 20.72 seconds.
Honorable mention: Angelo Goss, Coffeyville
Sophomore | Cave Valley, Jamaica
For the third time in the last four weeks, Gordon is our National Athlete of the Week. The first two honors were for elite performances in the 200 and 800; on Thursday, she did the inevitable and turned in a blazing fast 400. She ran 51.62 to win the one-lapper at Texas Tech’s Red Raider Open. That time is fifth among all collegians in 2015. Gordon is ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA in the 400 and 800 and No. 3 in the 200.
Honorable mention: Kadeisha Hield, Essex
Freshman | Kingston, New York
Briggs won his second National Athlete of the Week honor of 2015 with an impressive set of quadruple victories at the NJCAA Region III Championships. He won the 800, 110 and 400 hurdles, and ran a leg of the winning 4×800. His hurdle times of 15.04 and 55.04 are both new career bests and rank No. 1 in NJCAA DIII.
Freshman | St. James, New York
Bevans’s 100 hurdles and triple jump were the most impressive of her four events at St. John’s Tom Farrell Track & Field Classic. She took second in the TJ with a mark of 11.62m (38-1.5) and nabbed fourth place in the hurdles at 15.86 seconds. Both of those are NJCAA DIII season-leading marks.