National Athletes of the Year for 2015 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Announced
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NCAA DI OTF National Athletes of the Year

National Athletes of the Year for 2015 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Announced

NEW ORLEANS – Four of the best track & field athletes that have ever competed in NCAA Division I were recognized for their 2015 exploits on Monday as National Athletes of the Year were announced Wednesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Sprinter Andre De Grasse of Southern California was voted the 2015 Men’s National Track Athlete of the Year, Kentucky hurdler Kendra Harrison won Women’s National Track Athlete of the Year, jumper Marquis Dendy of Florida won Men’s National Field Athlete of the Year, and Kansas State heptathlete Akela Jones was the Women’s National Field Athlete of the Year.

Votes were cast by the coaches of USTFCCCA member schools.

MORE: Past Winners

Dendy and Harrison are seniors and out of eligibility, but Jones and De Grasse just finished their junior seasons.

All four had long weekends of fighting for national titles in Eugene.  De Grasse won the 100- and 200-meter titles in spectacularly fast times and ran the second leg on Southern Cal’s fourth-place 4×100 relay, Kentucky’s Harrison won the 100-meter hurdles and took second in the 400-meter hurdles, Dendy won the long and triple jumps, and Jones won the heptathlon and finished fourth in the high jump.

Harrison and Dendy have both been on the NCAA scene for years, but De Grasse and Jones put up their all-time great marks after spending two years outside of the NCAA system. Jones transferred to Kansas State from Oklahoma Baptist this year, while this was De Grasse’s first year at Southern Cal after two at Coffeyville Community College.

And what a first year it was.  De Grasse’s first eye-catching performance this outdoor season was his blazing fast 9.87 100 at Mt. SAC—but it came with the caveat that it was wind-aided and only tied for the fastest all-conditions performance among collegians in the regular season.  Then he won the Pac-12 track athlete of the meet for his impressive sprint triple at Drake Stadium: he won the conference in the 100 and 200 and ran a leg of the winning 4×100.

But the Canadian’s true eruption as a star came at the NCAA finals in Eugene. There, less than forty-five minutes apart, he won the 100 and 200 and tore up the collegiate record books.  He covered 100 meters in 9.75 seconds and then in his third race of the day (the 4×100 was before the open races) won the 200 in 19.58.  Both the 100 and 200 times mean that he’s one of the ten fastest performers in world history in all conditions in both events.

The 100 is the second fastest all-conditions collegiate time ever, and the 200 is the fastest. Neither was eligible for collegiate records as they were aided by tailwinds slightly over the allowable limit, which is 2.0m/s.  The 100 had a 2.7m/s following wind, and 200 had a 2.4m/s tailwind.

Dendy, like De Grasse, had incredible marks that were unprecedented among collegians, wind-aided or not.  The Florida senior won the long jump on Wednesday and the triple jump on Friday, ending his collegiate career with seven NCAA titles.  That number includes six in his last three national meets, where he swept both horizontal jumps.

His outdoor long jump win was a little less dramatic that his indoor one—where he finished first by just a centimeter.  On his third jump of the night, he soared 8.43 meters (27 feet, 8 inches) for a comparatively easy winning margin of nine centimeters.  Only seven collegians have ever jumped farther, regardless of wind.

Dendy brought the drama to Hayward Field on Friday night in the triple.  He was dominating the event, with three jumps in his first four that would have been good enough to win a national title.  Then Texas A&M’s Latario Collie took his sixth and final jump, and Dendy knew he had the event clinched.  With only one jump left in college and no concerns about fouling, Dendy went for a huge jump and got it.  He hopped, skipped, and jumped 17.71m (58-1¼) and ended his collegiate career as the third best all-conditions triple jumper in NCAA history.

The senior won both jumps at the SEC championships and was undefeated outdoors in the triple jump; he only lost once to a collegian in the long jump this season.

Where Dendy capped a career in an event that he’s dominated for a year and a half, Kansas State’s Akela Jones announced her arrival.  In just the second heptathlon of her life, Jones scored 6371 points—making her the fourth best college performer ever and the second best with the new javelin implement.  She only trails legends Diana Guthrie, Brianne Thiesen-Eaton, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee on the collegiate all-time list.

The junior beat the deepest college heptathlon field ever—the first one with four women over six thousand points.  She did so by setting five outdoor season bests in seven events, winning three and taking second in two more. Her four day one events—100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters—added up to the best day one in college heptathlon history.   Those 4023 points marked the first time a college woman broke four thousand on day one.

On day two, she hit outdoor season bests in the javelin and long jump and had Guthrie’s old-javelin and Thiesen’s new-javelin records in sight before the 800 meters.  She ran out of steam and covered the two laps in 2:29, but that wasn’t the end of the meet for Jones. With just a full day of rest, she came back in the open high jump and cleared 1.87m (6-1½) for fourth place and her seventh personal best of the meet.

Harrison finishes her career at Kentucky with all-time top five marks in both hurdle races.  In Eugene, she won the 100 hurdles in 12.55 seconds—giving her two of the five fastest wind-legal marks in NCAA history.  She won the SEC championships in May in 12.50; only Brianna Rollins and Ginnie Powell ran faster wind-legal times in college, in season or out.

Just forty-five minutes after the 100 hurdles final, Harrison returned in the 400 hurdles, and came just three tenths of a second short of becoming the second woman ever to sweep the hurdles at nationals.  Texas A&M’s Shamier Little passed Harrison after the Wildcat led the race for 300 meters.  Harrison’s runner-up time of 54.09 seconds makes her the fifth fastest in-season collegiate hurdler ever – and the only one ranked top five all-time in both hurdles races

Harrison finished in the same places in the hurdles at the SEC championships—first in the 100H, second in the 400H behind Little—where she also ran a leg on Kentucky’s seventh-place 4×400 meter relay.