NCAA & NJCAA National Athletes of the Week For April 26
NEW ORLEANS — Collegiate and division records were no match for track & field athletes this past weekend.
Old standards fell like dominoes, much to the delight of coaches and pundits.
Many of these athletes honored Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) had their hand in the record-setting weekend.
- NCAA Division I Men — Henry Wynne, Virginia
- NCAA Division I Women — Courtney Okolo, Texas
- NCAA Division II Men — Garrett Appier, Pittsburg State
- NCAA Division II Women — Tia-Adana Belle, Saint Augustine’s
- NCAA Division III Men — Mitchell Black, Tufts
- NCAA Division III Women — Emily Richards, Ohio Northern
- NJCAA Division I Men — Keitavious Walter, Hinds CC
- NJCAA Division I Women — Susan Ejore, Monroe College
- NJCAA Division III Men — Micah Assibey-Bonsu, Suffolk CC
- NJCAA Division III Women — Jordan Austin, RC-Gloucester CC
Find out more about these athletes by either clicking their name 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 10 collegiate outdoor track & field athletes (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions and both NJCAA divisions).
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 | Mid-Distance
Anybody who thought Henry Wynne’s victory in the mile at the 2016 NCAA Division I Indoor Championships was a fluke better think again.
Wynne means business and he proved it this past weekend at the Virginia Challenge.
Competing against a stacked field that included Syracuse’s Justyn Knight and Ole Miss’ Craig Engels, Wynne pulled away in the final 100 meters and won by more than one second in a nation-leading 3:38.05. Knight finished behind Wynne in 3:39.23.
This is the second time this season that Wynne went sub-3:39. A few weeks ago, Wynne debuted at the Florida Relays and ran 3:38.35 to win that heat as well.
Senior | Sprints
When Courtney Okolo stepped on the track for the 400 at Saturday’s LSU Alumni Gold, it had been one month and 11 days since her last open 400 in a win at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Clearly, the break didn’t affect her.
The senior blasted a 49.71 to win on a warm day in Baton Rouge, not only topping her own collegiate record (read: NCAA Championships or before) of 50.03 from two years ago but also running the fastest time by a collegian, ever, regardless of the calendar date. Natasha Hastings of South Carolina had run 49.84 in 2007 to finish runner-up at the USATF Championships.
Among times run worldwide this year, Okolo now trails only the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller, who ran 49.69 last weekend. In the history of the world, only Miller and Marion Jones have ever run faster in the month of April.
She bookended that historic quarter-mile performance with legs of the runner-up 4×100 relay and the winning 4×400 relay.
— NCAA Track & Field (@NCAATrackField) April 24, 2016
Senior | Throws
Entering the weekend with four of the seven best shot put marks in NCAA Division II history — including becoming the first man to throw farther than 20 meters twice in the same meet — Garrett Appier had been knocking on the door of the DII record all season long.
He busted through at this weekend’s Missouri S&T Dewey Allgood Invitational, throwing for a massive 20.54m (67-4¾) — surpassing the old DII standard of 20.14m (66-1) posted more than a decade ago in 2015 by Clint Prange of Northwest Missouri.
Beyond becoming the first man in DII history to surpass the 67-feet threshold, he’s just the second college man this year to go at least that far and is just less than three inches shy of the collegiate lead. Worldwide, he stands at No. 9 on the IAAF leaderboard this season.
Objectively, it was his best meet of the season overall. He also set a career-best in the hammer throw at 50.70m (166-4) and a season-best in the discus at 42.46m (139-4).
— Pitt St Athletics (@PittStGorillas) April 23, 2016
Junior | Hurdles
St. George, Barbados
Prior to this weekend, no woman in NCAA Division II history had ever finished a 400-meter hurdles race faster than 56 seconds. Tia-Adana Belle changed that in a big way this weekend.
The defending national champion junior won the CIAA title in a blistering 55.82, smashing the former DII record of 56.24 run almost exactly a decade-and-a-half ago in 2001 by Lewis’ Lana Jekabsone at the Drake Relays. The time also stands as the seventh-best in the world this season.
For good measure, she posted a 57.18 in the prelims for a share of the 10th-fastest time in DII history. But she didn’t stop there. In addition to those 10 team points, she added 10 more with a 100-meter hurdles win in 13.61, eight more as a leg of the runner-up 4×400 relay, and six more with a career-best-tying 1.55m (5-1) in the high jump.
Senior | Mid-Distance
Competition brings the best out of many athletes. Mitchell Black is one of those athletes.
This past weekend at the Larry Ellis Invitational hosted by Princeton, Black found himself in the fastest section of the 800 meters. Black more than stood his ground and has one of the best times in DIII history to show for it.
The senior from Tufts clocked a time of 1:48.60, which stands as the ninth fastest mark in DIII history. Black lowered his outdoor PR by more than one second in the process.
Sophomore | Mid-Distance
Emily Richards just keeps getting better as the season progresses.
Already a National Athlete of the Week this season from her performance at the Raleigh Relays (first place over several DI athletes), Richards one-upped herself this past weekend at the Jesse Owens Track & Field Classic hosted by Ohio State.
Richards hung tough over 800 meters and crossed the finish line in 2:05.54. For those wondering, that mark is the third fastest time in DIII history behind Christy Cazzola (2:02.95) and Liz Woodworth (2:05.05).
Freshman | Sprints
No one is going to forget Keitavious Walter’s name after the performance he turned in at the LSU Alumni Gold Invitational this past weekend.
Walter blistered the track with a wind-aided 10.15 over 100 meters in the slower section of the event. As it turns out, speed wins out no matter the section from which it comes.
When the dust settled, Walter recorded the best time of the meet, topping DI athletes like Tennessee’s Christian Coleman (10.16) and Clemson’s Tevin Hester (10.22).
Freshman | Distance
Susan Ejore had a busy weekend at the Larry Ellis Invitational.
On Friday, Ejore won her heat of the 1500 in an NJCAA-leading time of 4:25.11. Ejore beat several DI athletes and finished fifth out of 78 athletes.
Then on Saturday, Ejore took second behind Princeton’s Cecilia Barowski in the 800. Ejore crossed the finish line in 2:07.54, slightly slower than her No. 2 NJCAA DI time.
Freshman | Jumps
With a little more than two weeks left until the NJCAA Division III Outdoor Championships, Micah Assibey-Bonsu established himself as the favorite to win the triple jump title.
This past weekend at the All-American Invitational, Assibey-Bonsu soared 14.66m (48-1 ¼) and beat a healthy contingent of NCAA athletes spanning all divisions. That mark leaves Assibey-Bonsu the NJCAA DIII leader by nearly three feet.
Freshman | Sprints
Sicklerville, New Jersey
In a race where the top-3 times in NJCAA DIII were recorded, RC-Gloucester’s Jordan Austin came out on top at the Widener Invitational.
Austin clocked a 1:05.56 in the 400-meter hurdles to win by more than a half of a second against former National Athlete of the Week Iyanah Hawley and teammate Erica Gilmore.