NCAA & NJCAA National Athletes of the Week Prove No National Leader Is Safe
NEW ORLEANS — Just when some national leaders in NCAA and NJCAA Indoor Track & Field thought their marks were safe, other athletes had other plans.
We honor some of those newly-minted national leaders as National Athletes of the Week, as released Monday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
Find out more about each of these runners by clicking their names or scrolling below.
National Athlete of the Week is an award selected and presented by the USTFCCCA Communications Staff at the beginning of each week to eight collegiate indoor track & field athletes (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions and the NJCAA).
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.
- NCAA Division I Men — Jonathan Addison, NC State
- NCAA Division I Women — Courtney Okolo, Texas
- NCAA Division II Men — Caniggia Raynor, Central Missouri
- NCAA Division II Women — Carly Muscaro, Merrimack
- NCAA Division III Men — Robert Starnes, UW-Whitewater
- NCAA Division III Women — Amy Regan, Stevens Institute
- NJCAA Men — Hassan Abdi, South Plains College
- NJCAA Women — Ayesha Champagnie, Barton County CC
Senior | Jumps
Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State senior Jonathan Addison didn’t wait too long to set a personal best in the long jump this past weekend at the Doc Hale Virginia Tech Elite.
Addison soared to a personal best on his first leap and if he stopped there, he would have won the meet based off that leap alone. Like any elite athlete, Addison wanted to outdo himself — and did just that on his second attempt.
A leap of 8.17m (26-9.75) tied Addison for the national lead in the event with Arkansas’ Jarrion Lawson. It also has Addison in a tie with Lawson for the second best jump in the world this indoor track & field season.
Senior | Sprints
There are a number of impressive stats surrounding Okolo’s scintillating 51.16 season debut at 400 meters this weekend at Nebraska’s Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational.
For example, there’s the fact she just missed her indoor career-best 51.12 — a time that won her last year’s NCAA title — by the blink of an eye. Or that she now owns the collegiate lead by more than a second over last year’s NCAA runner-up Taylor Ellis-Watson of Arkansas, and the 2016 world lead by with a .4 of a second head-to-head win over former teammate Ashley Spencer.
Here’s one that requires a bit of digging, though: at 51.16, her time is the fastest ever run by a collegian prior to championships season — i.e. the NCAA Championships and conference championships. More than any other event, the women’s 400 is an event whose all-time top-10 list is dominated by performances at the NCAA Championship — nine of the ten fastest quarter-miles in collegiate indoor history have come at nationals — and she just missed that list by a tenth of a second.
For Okolo to have already run this fast in her season debut bodes well for her chances to repeat as NCAA champion and crack the top-10 on the all-time collegiate indoor list — or perhaps even claim a collegiate indoor record to match her all-time outdoor mark.
Senior | Throws
Already the defending national champion outdoors in the discus, Raynor is making himself a national contender on the indoor circuit, as well. He cracked the 70-foot barrier in the weight throw for the first time in his career with a heave of 21.60m (70-10½) at his home Mule Relays this weekend, improving his career-best from earlier this year by nearly three-quarters of a meter.
Not only does the mark move him to No. 2 on the NCAA DII list for the 2015-16 season, it moves him to No. 10 on the all-time DII performers list. Among all collegians this year, he’s ranked No. 10 in the country.
Junior | Sprints
For the second consecutive weekend, Muscaro reigns supreme among DII women athletes. One week after clocking a historic sub-53-second effort in her signature 400-meter event, she tacked on 100 more meters and made some more history.
On the same Boston track as a week ago, she ran a collegiate-leading 1:09.35 over 500 meters at the Scarlet and White Invitational. Though the event is not contested at the NCAA Championships and is therefore less frequently contested than other events, her performance was still one for the record books. Only three collegians – including DI athletes – have run faster over than distance in college history, and only six Americans in history have completed the two-and-a-half lap circuit quicker.
Her time was faster even than the 1:09.44 run by Olympic 400-meter hurdler Georganne Moline at the Armory this same weekend.
Sophomore | Jumps
Green Bay, Wisconsin
UW-Whitewater jumper Robert Starnes made a name for himself last year at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships when he won the high jump title and placed third in the long jump. Starnes was only a freshman.
It seems as if Starnes, now a sophomore, picked up right where he left off.
This past weekend at the Pointer Invitational, Starnes recorded a personal best of 7.32m (24-0.25) in the long jump. That shot him to the top of the national leaderboard in Division III for that event.
It should also be mentioned that Starnes is tied for the national lead when it comes to the high jump (2.14m/7-0.25).
Senior | Distance
Green Brook, New Jersey
If female distance runners in NCAA Division III have their say, former UW-Oshkosh standout Christy Cazzola won’t still hold the record in the 5000 by season’s end. Heck, Cazzola’s mark of 16:21.49 might not make it to next week.
One week after MIT’s Maryann Gong took aim at the record, Stevens’ Amy Regan did the exact same thing this past weekend — and nearly took it down.
Regan clocked at 16:23.40 at the Armory Track Invitational and won her heat by more than two seconds over a horde of DI runners from powerhouse programs like Vanderbilt and Wisconsin, among others.
Sophomore | Distance
Range is critical when it comes to distance running.
When an athlete, like South Plains College’s Hassan Abdi, shows it in one weekend, it’s a sight to behold.
At the Charlie Thomas Invitational in College Station, Texas, Abdi doubled up in the 3000 and 5000. Abdi won the 5000 in a time of 14:39.67 (No. 1 in the NJCAA) and came back to finish fourth in the 3000 in 8:21.11 (No. 2 in the NJCAA).
Abdi’s victory in the 5000 was his second over a field mainly filled with NCAA Division I talent. Two weeks ago, Abdi won the 3000 at the DeLoss Dodds Invitational.
Freshman | Combined Events
This past weekend at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational, Barton County’s Ayesha Champagnie competed in her first collegiate pentathlon. Based off her total, the pressure didn’t bother her one bit.
Champagnie recorded 3787 points and took the NJCAA lead in the process. Her best mark in the event came during the shot put when she propelled the weighted ball 13.98m (45-10.5) and won the flight.
Earlier this season, Champagnie clocked the division’s third best time of the season in the 60 hurdles.