NCAA & NJCAA Outdoor T&F National Athletes of the Week (March 21)

NEW ORLEANS – Spring has sprung and the outdoor season is alive and kicking.

We’re a few weeks removed from the respective indoor championships. That means we’re a few weeks closer to the respective outdoor championships.

Let’s not jump ahead too far, especially because the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) is pleased to announce the first National Athletes of the Week for the 2017 outdoor season.

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 the two in 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 – Matti Mortimore, North Dakota State

Senior | Throws
Ipswich, Suffolk, England

Matti Mortimore made sure his name would be in the national conversation throughout the season when it comes to the javelin throw.

This past weekend at the Baldy Castillo Invitational hosted by Arizona State, Mortimore unleashed a huge throw to win the event. Mortimore’s implement sailed 77.15m (253-1) to top his previous PR of 75.79m (248-8) and beat the closest competitor by nearly 27 feet.

Last year at NCAAs, Mortimore finished 12th. It’s safe to say if he throws like he did this past weekend, he’ll finish closer to where he did in 2015 (7th), if not better.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Maggie Ewen, Arizona State

Junior | Throws
St. Francis, Minnesota

One record down: one more to go.

Maggie Ewen opened her outdoor season in a big way in front of her home crowd at the Baldy Castillo Invitational this past weekend.

Ewen shattered the American collegiate record in the hammer throw with a heave of 72.71m (238-6). Former Southern Illinois standout and two-time NCAA champion DeAnna Price held the previous record with a mark of 72.66m (238-4).

Prior to this past weekend, Ewen’s PR in the event was 70.50m (231-3) that she set at the NCAA West Regional last year.

The next record in Ewen’s sights is the overall collegiate record held by former Georgia standout Jenny Dahlgren (72.94m/239-3). Dahlgren’s record has stood for nearly 10 years.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Josh Syrotchen, Harding

Senior | Throws
Spokane, Washington

Josh Syrotchen is picking up right where he left off a year ago.

After finishing 2nd at the 2016 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the senior has already punched his ticket to this year’s version, where he will look to win his first national title. The native of Spokane, Washington, posted a discus throw of 59.34m (194-8) to claim 1st place at the 2017 Rhodes Invitational this past weekend, clearing the NCAA Division II Automatic Qualifying mark in his first meet of the season while ranking first during this young Division II season.

As a matter of fact, Syrotchen’s discus mark was the furthest on the week by any athlete across all collegiate levels, besting Iowa’s Renu Tuufuli’s by a foot. Syrotchen also had the 3rd-best discus mark on the week with a throw of 57.10m (187-4).

Syrotchen wasn’t done on the weekend with his discus performance. He also placed 5th at the Rhodes Invitational with a personal-best 15.74m (51-7¾) in the shot put, a mark that currently sits 13th in Division II.  He also placed 4th at the Rhodes Invitational in the weight throw, recording a toss of 46.61m (152-11).

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Kami Norton, Angelo State

Junior | Multis
Albany, Texas

Kami Norton kicked off her junior year as best as she could.

Norton hit an NCAA Division II Automatic Qualifying mark this past weekend in the heptathlon at the Angelo State Spring Break Multi meet while also recording three NCAA Division II Provisional.

The product from Albany, Texas, was on fire at her school’s home meet, as she scored a whopping 5409 points in the heptathlon to not only set a new personal best, but to also place herself atop the descending order lists in the event in Division II on the year.

In a meet that was practically built especially for her, Norton won the 100 hurdles with a time of 14.04, ranking 3rd in Division II on the year, while winning the high jump (1.70m/5-7) and long jump (5.77m/18-11¼) along the way. Those latter two marks are good for 6th and 8th, respectively, in Division II this year.

Norton finished 5th at the outdoor championships a year ago before placing 2nd during the indoor championships just a few weeks ago. After a performance like this during the opening week of the outdoor season, you can pencil her in for a trip to the podium in May.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Jake Mihelich, Linfield

Senior | Sprints
Fort Collins, Colorado

Jake Mihelich is putting a disappointing end to the indoor season behind him.

After finishing 10th at NCAAs in the 400 – one year after winning the NCAA title – Mihelich posted two strong performances back to back.

Following his effort over 200 meters this past weekend at the L&C Spring Break Open, Mihelich is the top-ranked NCAA DIII man at that distance and 400 meters. Mihelich posted a time of 21.69 this past weekend and another of 47.64 two weeks ago.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Vaiva Palunas, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps

Senior | Throws
Seattle, Washington

Through the first few weeks of the outdoor season, no female thrower in NCAA Division III has been more versatile than Vaiva Palunas.

As it stands, Palunas is ranked No. 1 in both the shot put and discus throw and is ranked No. 2 in the hammer throw. Palunas notched two of those marks this past weekend at the Sacramento State Hornet Invitational where she flung the discus 44.45 meters (145-10) and the hammer 55.87m (183-4). She was the top finishing NCAA DIII thrower in each field.

Last year at NCAAs, Palunas competed in all three events but fouled on her attempts in the hammer throw. Palunas ended up finishing 11th in both the shot put and discus throw.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Samuel Shoultz, Pima CC

Sophomore | Jumps
Chandler, Arizona

While it’s only his 2nd season as a collegiate athlete, Samuel Shoultz has won all but one of his eight outdoor high jump competitions.

The opening weekend of his sophomore campaign was no different. The native of Chandler, Arizona, cleared 2.15m (7-0½) at the Willie Williams Classic, hitting an NJCAA Division I Outdoor Standard while leading the pack in all of NJCAA Division I.

Only two other athletes in all of college cleared higher marks than Shoultz this past weekend in the high jump, and they came from Division I programs.

Shoultz claimed an NJCAA Division I Outdoor Championship in the high jump a year ago. It already looks like he is ready to add to his total.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Portious Warren, Central Arizona

Sophomore | Throws
Matura, Saint Andrew, Trinidad and Tobago

Portious Warren posted two NJCAA Division I Outdoor Standard marks this past weekend at the Willie Williams Classic.

Recently claiming the NJCAA Indoor Championship in the shot put, the sophomore recorded the top mark in all of NJCAA Division I in the same event this past weekend with a heave of 16.17m (53-0¾). That same mark stood as the 5th-furthest in all of collegiate track and field this past weekend, sitting behind athletes from Louisville, USC and South Dakota. Warren also notched a throw of 15.84m (51-11¾) during the competition, good for 10th across all levels from this past weekend.

That’s not all, though. The native of Trinidad and Tobago posted the 7th-best hammer throw mark in all of NJCAA Division I at the meet, recording a toss of 43.11m (141-5). That, too, is an NJCAA Division I Outdoor Standard mark. 

After making it to the top just a few weeks ago for her 1st national championship, Warren hopes to build on a 4th-place finish from the outdoor championships a season ago.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Elijah Richardson, Howard CC

Freshman | Sprints, Jumps
Sykesville, Maryland

Elijah Richardson wasted no time in making his presence felt.

The rookie from Sykesville, Maryland, went off at the Maryland Invitational, claiming the event title and setting an NJCAA Division III Outdoor Standard mark in the high jump with a mark of 1.98m (6-6), besting two athletes from the home team Terrapins in that event. His leap is good for the top spot in all of NJCAA Division III so far this year.

Richardson also got it done on the track, as he posted the top marks in NJCAA Division III in the 110 hurdles (16.71) and 400 hurdles (1:00.24). Head coach Dr. Robert Etheridge – someone who knows a thing or two about jumping – has to be pleased with his new pupil.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Glory Ebinama, Howard CC

Sophomore | Sprints
Columbia, Maryland

Glory Ebinama placed in the top-5 in four events at the NJCAA Division III Outdoor National Championships a year ago.

This year, she wants more.

The native of Columbia, Maryland, ran a 26.30 in the event at the Maryland Invitational over the weekend, claiming the top spot on the NJCAA Division III descending order list while falling just short of her personal best mark of 26.14. Running in the top heat of the event, she finished 4th behind two runners from Maryland and one from Bowie State.

Ebinama also ran the fastest NJCAA Division III time in the 400 meters over the weekend, wrapping up with a time of 1:02.14. Both of her marks are good for NJCAA Division III Outdoor Standards. After making a splash at nationals last year, this sophomore could do some special things for Howard CC by the time this season is through.