NCAA & NJCAA National Athletes of the Week For April 5
NEW ORLEANS — Divisions didn’t matter this past weekend in collegiate track & field.
The best in NCAA Division I mixed it up with NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and even the NJCAA at meets across the nation, namely the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays and the Stanford Invitational. Athletes turned in some gutsy and downright historic marks.
Here are those athletes who stood out from the rest and were named National Athletes of the Week on Tuesday, as presented by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
- NCAA Division I Men — Devin King, Southeastern Louisiana
- NCAA Division I Women — Courtney Smith, Harvard
- NCAA Division II Men — Jeron Robinson, Texas A&M-Kingsville
- NCAA Division II Women — Tia-Adana Belle, Saint Augustine’s
- NCAA Division III Men — Ian LaMere, UW-Platteville
- NCAA Division III Women — Shailah Williams, Rowan
- NJCAA Division I Men — Okeen Williams, South Plains
- NJCAA Division I Women — Angelica Collins, Coffeyville CC
- NJCAA Division III Men — Michael Scott, Montgomery College
- NJCAA Division III Women — Iyanah Hawley, Union CC
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.
Sophomore | Pole Vault
Devin King made it look easy during the pole vault at the 89th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays this past weekend.
After clearing the first four heights on the first attempt, King passed at 5.65m (18-6½) before resuming at 5.70m (18-8¼). Once again, King cleared on his first attempt and after his opponents could not, the title was his.
King not only won the event and established a new collegiate lead, but also set another huge personal best. Prior to this weekend, King’s career best was 5.51m (18-1), so that’s a 19 centimeter improvement.
Sophomore | Distance
Entering this weekend’s action at the Stanford Invitational, the fastest that Courtney Smith had ever run over 10,000 meters was 34:53.67. With competition in Palo Alto now in the rear view mirror, only seven women have ever run faster than Smith in collegiate history.
The sophomore made her 2016 outdoor debut with a sensational 32:08.32 – a two-minute, 45-second career-best – to finish sixth overall in a very fast field featuring a number of very fast collegians and professionals. The performance was the ninth-fastest in college history, and moved her to No. 8 on the all-time college performers list.
She was able to edge out multiple-time All-American Chelsea Blaase of Tennessee at the line by hundredths of a second, and took down a number of other collegiate standouts. Those defeated by Smith included Blaase, Hannah Everson of Air Force, Olivia Pratt of Butler, Sharon Lokedi of Kansas and Molly Grabill of Oregon.
Senior | High Jump
After finishing the 2016 indoor season with a share of the collegiate lead in the high jump, Jeron Robinson was faced with the unique opportunity at this weekend’s Texas Relays to prove his worth as the nation’s top collegiate high jumper, regardless of division.
He made the most of it, clearing 2.26m (7-5) to earn a tiebreak victory over NCAA Division I Indoor Champion Trey Culver of Texas Tech. Both Robinson and Culver went over 2.26m on their second attempts, but Robinson had yet to miss until that point in the competition; Culver needed two tries on each of the three final heights.
Not only did he take down Culver head-to-head, he also defeated the man with whom he co-held the indoor collegiate lead in Texas Tech’s Bradley Adkins, last year’s indoor and outdoor NCAA DI runner-up. Adkins was fifth overall at 2.09m (6-10¼).
Barring any unscheduled competitions, Robinson and Culver/Adkins will not meet again this collegiate season — though the possibility exists they’ll see each other again at the Olympic Trials in July.
Junior | Hurdles
St. George, Barbados
When it comes to the 400-meter hurdles, no one among the college ranks has run faster in 2016 than Tia-Adana Belle. And only one woman in NCAA DII history has ever crossed the line quicker than did Belle at this weekend’s Florida Relays.
Belle ran a career-best 56.34 came in a half-second win over NCAA DI All-America contender Autumne Franklin of Harvard, and on the all-time DII list it trails only the 56.24 run by Lewis’ Lana Jekabsone in 2001.
She also contributed to the Falcons’ third-place 4×400 relay squad.
This comes one week after she finished third overall in the Raleigh Relays 100-meter hurdles in a career-best 13.73 after running a windy 13.47 (+3.5m/s) for the second-best time of the prelims. That preliminary time still stands as the fastest qualifying time in the nation.
Junior | Distance
Green Bay, Wisconsin
They say there are two things for certain in life — death and taxes.
You might as well add another: Ian LaMere runs well and really, really fast alone.
LaMere proved it during the fall at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships and did it once again this past weekend at the Stanford Invitational.
It was in Palo Alto, California where LaMere shattered the DIII 10,000-meter record and did so while running alone the last 4,000 meters. LaMere crossed the finish line in 28:38.63 — nearly 10 seconds better than the old record (28.48.4) — and closed in under 14:10, beating the field to the tape by 17 seconds.
LaMere destroyed a talented field filled with DI athletes from powerhouse distance programs (BYU, Oregon, Syracuse, etc.). He was the only DIII athlete in the field and 33 of the other 35 athletes were all from DI.
Senior | Sprints
Pemberton, New Jersey
Talk about finishing strong.
Shailah Williams has already begun to put quite the bow on her final collegiate season.
This past weekend at the Oscar Moore Invitational, Williams recorded the fastest 200-meter time in DIII this season (24.62) and posted the fifth fastest time at 100 meters (12.08) against a stiff wind.
If you’re counting at home, Williams owns the DIII lead at 200 and 400. Two weeks ago Williams clocked a 400-meter time of 55.27 at the Emory Invitational. No other DIII woman has gone under 53 seconds yet this season.
Freshman | Hurdles
St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
The spotlight didn’t bother Okeen Williams this past weekend.
Williams competed at the 89th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays and established an NJCAA best time in the 400 hurdles. His time of 51.15 is nearly a full second faster than the division’s runner-up.
The freshman also lowered his personal best by more than two seconds since the beginning of the season.
Sophomore | Jumps
North Charleston, South Carolina
After this past weekend, Angelica Collins has qualified for three events at the NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Before competing at the Cowley County Tiger Invitational, Collins already hit marks in the 100 and triple jump. Collins added the long jump to her tally with a nation-leading 6.14m (20-1¾).
No other woman in NJCAA DI broke the 20-foot barrier yet.
Freshman | Jumps
Qualify for the NJCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships? Check.
Do it in style? Check.
Michael Scott put together a solid string of attempts this past weekend at the Millersville Metrics. Scott soared more than 6.76m (22-2¼) four times and ended with a leap of 7.07m (23-2½) to take the national lead.
Freshman | Hurdles
If the early goings of the season are any indication, Iyanah Hawley might be untouchable in the 100-meter hurdles.
Hawley put a stranglehold on the national lead of the event, clocking a time of 14.63 at the Ramapo College Invitational. That beat the previous national lead by nearly three seconds.