NCAA & NJCAA ITF National Athletes of the Week (December 6)

NCAA & NJCAA ITF National Athletes of the Week (December 6)

NEW ORLEANS — The track & field season is finally here.

For some, it’s just a continuation of what was started in the fall during cross country.

For others — like those who don’t run long distances — this past weekend was a chance to shake off the rust.

Many athletes were in midseason form during the first weekend of indoor track & field. These 8 men and women were among the best who stood out.

Find out more about these athletes 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 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.

NCAA DIVISION I MEN — Luca Wieland, Minnesota

Senior | Combined Events
Saarbrucken, Germany

The former NCAA heptathlon champion had a tremendous start to the season.

Luca Wieland not only won the heptathlon at the South Dakota State Open and Multi, but notched a personal best in the process. Wieland totaled 6089 points, topping his old mark of 6070 set at the 2015 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Wieland beat the rest of the field in 6 of the 7 events and fell just short of a PR in the 1000 meters. The only event in which he didn’t record the best mark was the pole vault.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN — Karissa Schweizer, Missouri

Junior | Distance
Urbandale, Iowa

The NCAA XC champion opened up the season in a big way this past weekend.

Karissa Schweizer competed at the Boston University Season Opener and crushed her opponents in the 5000. Schweizer clocked a personal best of 15:37.40 to beat a host of talented runners — namely Providence’s Sarah Collins and NC State’s Erika Kemp — by nearly 14 seconds.

Her previous personal best came at the Mt. SAC Relays last season where she notched a time of 15:58.09 in a 12th place finish.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN — Zach Panning, Grand Valley State

Sophomore | Distance
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Through the first three meets of his 2016 cross country season, Zach Panning was the winner or top Division II finisher in every race. That changed in the postseason, as Tiffin’s James Ngandu won the GLIAC (Panning was second) and the Midwest Region (Panning was fifth), and finished third at NCAAs (Panning was fifth).

Panning earned a measure of revenge this past weekend on the track, as he topped his Tiffin rival over 5000 meters at his home GVSU Holiday Open. The sophomore crossed the line in a collegiate-leading and career-best 14:02.23, beating Ngandu to the line by more than a second-and-a-half.

Prior to this weekend, Panning had never run faster than 14:15.36 indoors or 14:08.85 outdoors.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN — Kaitlyn Long, Winona State

Junior | Throws
Cottage Grove, Wisconsin

If this past weekend is any indication, prepare for a major revision to the NCAA Division II weight throw record books.

Already the DII record holder in the event, Kaitlyn Long opened her junior campaign with the fifth-farthest throw in division history this weekend, heaving a mark of 21.71m (71-2¾) to win the Minnesota State Chuck Peterson Open. The mark was strong enough to win by nearly 18 feet, and leads all collegians by more than a foot.

As it stands, her season-opening mark is closer to her NCAA DII record from last year’s national championships (22.70m/74-5¾) than it is to her 2015-16 debut mark at the same meet (20.57m/67-6).

NCAA DIVISION III MEN — Jeffrey Dover, Christopher Newport

Junior | Distance
Moyock, North Carolina

Jeffrey Dover got his indoor season off on the right foot.

Dover, a junior from Moyock, North Carolina, clocked two NCAA Division III leading times at the CNU Holiday Open this past weekend. They were both PRs to boot.

His time in the mile was 4:15.58, which topped his previous best by nearly one second. In the 3000, Dover ran 8:38.40 — a near 51 seconds better than his previous PR that he ran at that same meet two years ago.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN — Erin Herrmann, Hope

Junior | Distance
Wheaton, Illinois

A breakout season on the track wasn’t enough for Erin Hermann. Now she wants to do it on the track, too.

Running at the GVSU Holiday Open, Hermann clocked a personal best time of 9:44.42 in the 3000. That topped her old personal best by 8 seconds.

Hermann finished 4th at the 2016 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships and was 2nd in the steeplechase at the 2016 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

NJCAA MEN — Nathan Winters, Indian Hills CC

Freshman | Throws
Knoxville, Iowa

Nathan Winters made the most of his collegiate debut at the Central Dutch Holiday Preview, finishing runner-up in the shot put and establishing a significant early-season national lead in the event among NJCAA athletes.

The freshman, on his very first throw as a collegian, heaved the shot out to a mark of 15.28m (50-1¾). The mark would stand as the leader in the event until eventual winner Derek Seddon of NAIA William Penn topped it on his final throw.

At the NJCAA level, he is the only man so far to have reached the NJCAA indoor standard in any event, and leads all NJCAA shot putters by exactly 13 feet.

NJCAA WOMEN — Proleine Pierre, Highland CC

Freshman | Sprints
Bahamas

Proleine Pierre established herself as the early-season standard bearer in the NJCAA short sprints, jumping out to national leads both at 60 and 200 meters at the Kansas Bob Timmons Challenge.

Competing in her first collegiate meet, the freshman won her section of the 60 meters in 7.98, and claimed her section of the 200 in 26.42.