NCAA & NJCAA OTF National Athletes of the Week (April 3)

NEW ORLEANS – A great weekend in collegiate outdoor track & field led to some excellent performances.

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 these athletes by clicking their names or scrolling below.

CLICK HERE for a historical listing of National Athletes of the Week in outdoor track & field.

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 – Chris Nilsen, South Dakota

Sophomore | Pole Vault
Kansas City, Missouri

All eyes in the pole vault world were on the Texas Relays this past weekend.

That’s where a number of world-class vaulters gathered, including most of the men who competed for NCAA glory in March and will likely do the same in June. The field included the past two NCAA champions: Hussain Al Hizam of Kansas and Matthew Ludwig of Akron.

Chris Nilsen got the last laugh in the elite section as he cleared 5.80m (19-0¼) and earned the win by virtue of his clean sheet from 5.50m (18-0½) to 5.80m. That mark equaled his PR from the indoor season and left him as the seventh best performer in collegiate outdoor history.

This is the first time that Nilsen has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Sydney McLaughlin, Kentucky

Freshman | Sprints
Dunellen, New Jersey

Sydney McLaughlin put the nation on notice this past weekend.

McLaughlin opened her outdoor season with two tremendous efforts at the Florida Relays.

On Thursday, McLaughlin won the 200 in 22.39 with a legal wind at her back (1.5 m/s). That put her No. 1 nationally by quite a large margin.

McLaughlin doubled down the following afternoon on a rain-soaked track. The New Jersey native clocked a time of 50.07 in the 400, which stands as the third fastest time in collegiate outdoor history and left her as the second fastest performer in the event (2016 The Bowerman winner Courtney Okolo has the No. 1 and No. 2 all-time marks at 49.71 and 50.03).

She then split 49.45 on the third leg of the 4×400.

This is the first time in program history that a Kentucky athlete has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Richard Cervantes, Texas A&M-Kingsville

Redshirt Junior | Throws
Mission, Texas

Richard Cervantes doubled up at the Home Depot Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, posting NCAA Division II Automatic Qualifying Marks in two events.

The product out of Mission, Texas, put on a show in the shot put and discus against some of the nation’s best competition. Cervantes’ shot put mark of 18.83m (61-9½) and discus throw of 58.73m (192-8) were good for third and fourth place, respectively. However, both marks sit atop the NCAA Division II Descending Order List, and his discus throw was good for fifth on the week’s top-10 performances. He is the lone athlete in NCAA Division II with an Automatic Qualifying Mark in the discus.

Cervantes is the first male athlete from Texas A&M-Kingsville to be named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season since Jeron Robinson in 2016.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Shannon Kalawan, Saint Augustine’s

Sophomore | Sprints/Hurdles
Westmoreland, Jamaica

Shannon Kalawan took home the 400 hurdles event title at the Florida Relays, which is impressive considering the talent stacked up against her.

The sophomore from Westmoreland, Jamaica, beat 52 other athletes, a majority of which came from the NCAA Division I level. Kalawan’s time of 56.99 is the first sub-minute 400 hurdle time in NCAA Division II this year, and it doubles as an NCAA Division II Automatic Qualifying Mark. Her time also puts her in the NCAA Division II outdoor collegiate record book as the seventh-best performer in the event with the 13th-best time.

This is the third year in a row that Saint Augstine’s has had at least one National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Luke Winder, North Central (Ill.)

Senior | Pole Vault
Joliet, Illinois

Luke Winder is back up to his old tricks again.

After missing the NCAA Indoor Championships last month, Winder returned to the outdoor circuit this past weekend at the Wash U Invitational. It just so happened to be that Dan Evers of Monmouth (Ill.), who won the indoor title was there, too.

Winder prevailed with his clearance of 5.35m (17-6½), which also etched his name into the all-time chart once again. He is just one of eight men in NCAA DIII history who have cleared 5.35m during the collegiate season.

This is the fourth time in his career that Winder has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Emily Richards, Ohio Northern

Senior | Mid-Distance
Delaware, Ohio

Emily Richards pieced together a masterful performance at the Raleigh Relays.

It all started on Friday night when Richards finished third out of 136 runners in the 1500 and beat the likes of Erika Kemp (NC State), Natalie Eizmas (Eastern Michigan) and Allie Buchalski (Furman). Richards crossed the finish line in 4:15.77, which is good enough for third fastest in NCAA DIII history and No. 4 among all collegians this season.

Then on Saturday, Richards was the top collegiate finisher in the 800. Richards turned two laps in 2:03.63 and finished third behind two professionals. That time put her under the former meet record, is yet another all-time top-10 mark in NCAA DIII and left her as the collegiate leader.

This is the fifth time in her career that Richards has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Christian Lyon, Barton County (Kan.) CC

Sophomore | Sprints
Fort Carson, Colorado

Yes, the wind was fast, but it benefitted every competitor in the 100 meter finals at the Home Depot Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays. But of all of those competitors, including the top-three on the NCAA Division I Descending Order List, Christian Lyon took home the win.

A sophomore from Fort Carson, Colorado, Lyon posted a blistering 10.00 (3.6 m/s wind) in the 100 to defeat some of the nation’s fastest runners. Lyon also ran in the 4×100 that posted a time of 40.35, good for second on the NJCAA Division I Descending Order List.

This is the first time in program history that a male athlete from Barton County CC has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Teresha Jacobs, New Mexico JC

Sophomore | Distance
Porus, Jamaica

Teresha Jacobs finished second in the steeplechase at the Texas State Bobcat Invitational with an NJCAA Division I leading time of 11:10.89.

The sophomore from Porus, Jamaica, defeated runners from New Mexico St., UL-Lafayette, Incarnate Word and Texas State at the competition. Her time doubles as an NJCAA Division I Automatic Qualifying Mark.

Jacobs is the third woman from New Mexico JC to be named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season in the past three years.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Milan Wall, Prince George’s CC

Freshman | Sprints

Milan Wall was solid in his collegiate debut at the Danny Curran Invitational where he won the 400 with a time of 49.21.

The freshman’s time is the first sub-50.00 time in the 400 this year at the NJCAA Division III level. Wall also competed in the 4×400, where his team ran a 3:28.66 – good for second on the NJCAA Division III Descending Order List.

Wall is the first National Athlete of the Week from Prince George’s CC since Joel Thomas in 2016.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Natalie Cook, Harper College

Sophomore | Sprints
Algonquin, Illinois

Competing against mostly NCAA Division III athletes, Natalie Cook posted a fourth-place finish in the 400 at the Augustana Viking Olympics meet this past weekend.

Cook’s time of 2:21.80 sits atop the NJCAA Division III Descending Order List. The sophomore from Algonquin, Illinois, also hit an NJCAA Division III Automatic Qualifying Mark in the process.

This is the first time a female athlete from Harper College has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season.