NCAA & NJCAA Outdoor National Athletes of the Week (May 9)

NEW ORLEANS – With the collegiate track & field postseason rapidly approaching, athletes around the nation are picking up the pace.

These 10 athletes this week starred on the national level and were named National Athletes of the Week by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Tuesday.

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 – Justyn Knight, Syracuse

Junior | Distance
Vaughan, Ontario, Canada

The elite section of the 5000 at the Payton Jordan Invitational was supposed to be about Edward Cheserek’s run at collegiate history. Instead, Justyn Knight stole the spotlight.

Knight won the heat in a world-leading 13:17.51 and used a 57.6-second last lap to kick past professionals Sam McEntee and Gabriel Geay. Cheserek ended up finishing some seven seconds behind Knight.

That time by Knight (13:17.51) was the 4th fastest mark ever record during a collegiate season in collegiate history. Knight now sits behind Henry Rono, Diego Estrada and Alistair Cragg on the all-time chart. Estrada and Cragg both ran their times at the Payton Jordan Invitational as well.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Keturah Orji, Georgia

Junior | Horizontal Jumps
Mount Olive, New Jersey

The debut was worth the wait.

Keturah Orji finally opened up her outdoor season this past weekend at the Torrin Lawrence Memorial on her home track in Athens, Georgia. And Orji recorded a triple jump of 14.31m (46-11½) which stands as the 2nd best mark in collegiate history.

Who owns the top mark? That would be none other than Orji, who hopped, skipped and jumped her way to a record of 14.53m (47-8) in a winning effort at the 2016 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

We’ll next see Orji compete at the NCAA East Preliminary in Lexington, Kentucky.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Coy Blair, Tiffin

Senior | Throws
Logan, Ohio

Coy Blair was rock solid in the shot put this past weekend at the GLIAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships, claiming a league title and extending his distance from the nearest competitor on the descending order list with a personal-best mark of 19.90m (65-3½). The throw was the 4th-best on the week by any collegiate competitor, and it moves the senior up in the NCAA Division II collegiate outdoor record books to the 5th-best performer in the event.

His previous best on the season was 19.60m (64-3¾). The native of Logan, Ohio, is coming off an indoor season in which he won individual titles in the shot put and weight throw. After finishing 2nd a year ago at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the shot put, Blair is looking to leave no stone unturned before wrapping up his collegiate career.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Alicja Konieczek, Western State

Junior | Distance
Zsrit Powodowo, Poland

Alicja Konieczek is already in the collegiate record book for an outstanding performance in the steeplechase earlier this year. But this past weekend, the native of Poland rewrote history once again.

The product out of Western State ran the fastest steeplechase time in the NCAA Division II collegiate outdoor history with a mark of 9:49.74. So impressive is her mark that it sits a shade over 20 seconds faster than her nearest competitor on the NCAA Division II descending order list.

Another fact to prove how outstanding her mark was: it was the best time on the week by any collegiate athlete in the event, including The Bowerman Award Watch List vote receiver Elinor Purrier, who ran a 9:56.15 this weekend. The 2-time indoor national champ is shooting for her first outdoor title, and with times like this, it’s very possible this year will be the year.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Parker Witt, UW-Whitewater

Junior | Sprints
Appleton, Wisconsin

What do you do if you’re running into a headwind?

If you’re Parker Witt, you set a PR and become the first man during the NCAA DIII season to go sub 21 seconds in the 200 meters.

Witt blasted a time of 20.99 at the WIAC Outdoor Championships this past weekend to win one of his two individual titles at the meet. He also captured 1st place in the 100.

One look at the NCAA DIII Descending Order List shows exactly why Witt is our choice for NCAA DIII Men’s National Athlete of the Week. Witt is currently atop the chart in both the 100 and 200 and is the man to beat in both with two weekends to go until NCAAs.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Wadeline Jonathas, UMass Boston

Freshman | Sprints
Gonaives, Haiti

The NCAA DIII record book fears Wadeline Jonathas.

There is no other way around it.

This past weekend at the NCAA Division III New England Outdoor Championships, Jonathas broke an 18-year-old NCAA DIII record over 200 meters. Jonathas crossed the finish line in 23.67, which shattered the previous mark of 23.72 set by Rhondale Jones in 1999.

The native of Gonaives, Haiti, wasn’t done there, though.

Jonathas proceeded to clock the 3rd fastest mark in NCAA DIII history over 100 meters. Her time of 11.59w sits behind Ashlynn Chavis (11.55w) and Meg Heafy (11.58w) on the chart.

Strong consideration was also given to Ithaca’s Katherine Pitman (pole vault) and UT Tyler’s Whitney Simmons (hammer throw), who both broke NCAA DIII records in their respective events.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Adrian Williams, South Plains (Texas)

Sophomore | Throws

With the 6th-best javelin throw on the week by any collegiate athlete, Adrian Williams won the Texas Tech Masked Rider Open with an NJCAA Division I leading mark.

The sophomore posted a heave of 69.34m (227-6), winning the event title at the meet in Lubbock, Texas, for the 2nd-straight year. The event title marked Williams’ 3rd of the year and sets him up quite nicely for a chance to defend his javelin championship at the NJCAA Division I National Championships in just a few weeks.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Natassha McDonald, South Plains (Texas)

Freshman | Sprints
Toronto, Canada

This isn’t Natassha McDonald’s 1st rodeo.

The native of Toronto was named a National Athlete of the Week earlier this year, but has kept going strong this season. This past weekend, the freshman ran an altitude-converted time of 52.59 in the 400 meters at the Texas Tech Masked Rider Open. That mark is good for the top spot on the NJCAA Division I Descending Order List.

McDonald won the event title at the meet, beating out 4 NCAA Division I athletes in the process, while also running the fastest time in the event in all of collegiate track & field this past week. As impressive as her season has been thus far, it will be interesting to see what she can do during the championship portion of her rookie campaign.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Luke Shively, Finger Lakes CC

Sophomore | Jumps
Berlin, New Jersey

Luke Shively was all-everything this past weekend for Finger Lakes CC at the NJCAA Region III Track & Field Championships. The sophomore scored 5138 points in the decathlon for the 2nd-best point total in all of NJCAA Division III on the year.

However, Shively was even better in the pole vault, notching a 4.35m (14-3¼) for the top spot on the descending order list. Shively won the event title in the pole vault with that mark.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Lauren Wangenstein, Suffolk CC

Sophomore | Jumps/Sprints
Bohemia, New York

Lauren Wangenstein took home the high jump event title this past weekend at the Tom Farrell Classic, defeating NCAA Division I athletes from Fordham and St. John’s in the process. More importantly, the sophomore’s clearance of 1.60m (5-3) moved her to the top of the descending order list in the event.

Wangenstein also ran on the 4×100 relay squad at the meet that posted a time of 50.75, good for 3rd on the descending order list.