NCAA & NJCAA ITF National Athletes of the Week (December 5)

NEW ORLEANS – Cross country might have just ended, but indoor track & field is here.

Athletes from across the nation started their seasons this past weekend and turned in some blistering times and huge marks.

Here are those athletes who stood out 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 each of these runners 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 eight collegiate indoor track & field athletes (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions and NJCAA Division I).

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. Nominated athletes are noticed before those athletes found through searching TFRRS.

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 – Josh Davis, NC State

Senior | Throws
Pelham, North Carolina

Josh Davis turned in a massive series this past weekend at the JDL College Kickoff Classic.

Davis, an All-American in the weight throw during the 2017 indoor season, picked up where he left off and recorded three marks of 22 meters (72 feet, 2 inches) or better. His best heave came on his final attempt, which sailed 23.24m (76-3) and broke the facility and meet record in addition to shattering his previous PR by nearly four feet.

If Davis used his biggest throw from this past weekend at the 2017 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, he would have won the national title.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Karissa Schweizer, Missouri

Senior | Distance
Urbandale, Iowa

When Karissa Schweizer toed the starting line for the 5000 this past weekend at the Boston University Season Opener, she definitely saw a few familiar faces.

Schweizer was joined by 13 other women who competed at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships two weeks earlier, including individual champion Ednah Kurgat.

Well, those 13 other women saw a familiar sight as well: Schweizer’s back.

Schweizer continued her strong efforts on the track with a time of 15:17.31 to beat Kurgat to the finish line by nearly two seconds. That effort improved Schweizer’s spot on the all-time chart (still No. 5) and added another top performance to her ledger.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – James Ngandu, Tiffin

Senior | Distance
Nairobi, Kenya

Eight NCAA Division II automatic qualifying marks were set over the weekend by men at the NCAA Division II level. Four came in one race; the 5000 meter run at the Grand Valley State Holiday Open.

James Ngandu of Tiffin won that race.

Fresh off an NCAA Division II Cross Country individual championship, Ngandu got his indoor season started on the right foot by posting a time of 13:57.54 at the GVSU Holiday Open, ahead of three Laker runners. His time is tops in the nation at the NCAA Division II level, and was only bested by Tulane’s Emmanuel Rotich in the whole country this past weekend.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Kimberly Peterson, Sioux Falls

Junior | Pole Vault
Elizabeth, Colorado

Pitted against quality opponents from NCAA Division I programs like Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, Sioux Falls’ Kimberly Peterson bested them all.

The redshirt-junior from Elizabeth, Colorado posted a pole vault mark of 4.05m (13-3½) at the SDSU Holiday Open & Multi for the event title. Her leap was good for one of just two NCAA Division II automatic qualifying marks by a woman this past weekend.

Peterson’s mark is eight inches better than any NCAA Division II competitor this year, and her mark was tied for the fifth-best across the country. 

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Blaze Murfin, Dubuque

Junior | Throws
Dallas City, Illinois

After one meet, Blaze Murfin is the national leader in both the shot put and weight throw.

This past weekend at the Dubuque Track & Field Championships, Murfin recorded marks of 15.76m (51-8½) in the shot put and 18.46m (60-6¾) in the weight throw to put himself into rare company. Murfin owns the national lead in the shot put by 3½ inches, while his mark in the weight throw gave him a one-foot advantage.

Murfin finished fifth in the shot put and sixth in the weight throw at the 2017 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships, so performances like this early in the season definitely put him on the radar going forward.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Emily Richards, Ohio Northern

Senior | Mid-Distance
Delaware, Ohio

It’s safe to say Emily Richards want to go down as one of the greats in NCAA Division III history.

After this past weekend, Richards now has her name on the all-time top-10 list of three different events: the 800, the mile and now the 3000.

This past weekend at the GVSU Holiday Open, Richards clocked the second fastest time in NCAA DIII history. Richards crossed the finish line in 9:23.61, which put her second all-time to the legendary Missy Buttry from Wartburg (9:13.13).

The Ohio Northern standout was the fastest collegian in the field and she beat athletes from NCAA Division II power Grand Valley State as well as NCAA Division Eastern Michigan.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Ayrton Ledesma, Gillette

Sophomore | Distance
Morelia, Mexico

Gillette’s Ayrton Ledesma competed in the 5000 at the GVSU Holiday Open and dominated at his level of competition.

While the product out of Morelia, Mexico finished 17th at the meet, his mark of 14:45.44 was better than 42 others. Additionally, his time is an NJCAA automatic qualifying mark, and currently sits over one minute, 30 seconds faster than his nearest NJCAA competitor.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Macy Gustavus, Macomb CC

Sophomore | Distance
Chesterfield Township, Michigan

Macy Gustavus of Macomb CC was the lone woman to post an NJCAA automatic qualifying mark during the first weekend of the season. At the SVSU Holiday Open and Multis, the sophomore from Chesterfield Township, Michigan notched a time of 19:06.81 in the 5000.

The meet marked Gustavus’ first time competing in the 5000 meters during the indoor season, as she did not do so during her freshman campaign a year ago.