NCAA & NJCAA OTF National Athletes of the Week (May 8)
NEW ORLEANS – All-time charts weren’t safe this past weekend.
Our National Athletes of the Week, announced Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), challenged history across the nation.
- NCAA Division I Men – Chris Nilsen, South Dakota
- NCAA Division I Women – Gabby Thomas, Harvard
- NCAA Division II Men – Nils Fischer, Angelo State
- NCAA Division II Women – Caroline Kurgat, Alaska Anchorage
- NCAA Division III Men – Ta’riq Thomas, Delaware Valley
- NCAA Division III Women – Wadeline Jonathas, UMass Boston
- NJCAA Division I Men – Markin Felix, South Plains (Texas)
- NJCAA Division I Women – Abigail Kwarteng, Western Texas
- NJCAA Division III Men – Zenron Chance, Kingsborough (N.Y.)
- NJCAA Division III Women – Malerie Belles, Herkimer County
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.
Sophomore | Pole Vault
Kansas City, Missouri
Chris Nilsen went up and over a historic bar this past weekend.
Nilsen cleared 5.86m (19-2¾) in the pole vault at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays to match Bill Payne, the fourth best performer in collegiate outdoor history. That clearance also tied Nilsen for the sixth best performance in collegiate outdoor history to boot.
MUST SEE VIDEO! @SDCoyotes @SDCoyotesXCTF Chris Nilsen clears 19 feet, 2 and 3/4 inches on the pole vault at the Howard Wood @DakotaRelays . 2nd best in the United States, 3rd best in the world. #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/edbwFDIy2D
— KDLT Sports (@KDLTSports) May 5, 2018
The sophomore from Kansas City, Missouri, entered the competition at 5.35m (17-6½). He went over that bar on his second attempt and only needed six attempts the rest of the way after that as he topped three bars on his first attempt, including the clincher.
This is the second time that Nilsen earned National Athlete of the Week honors this season. He also received them on April 3 after winning the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
Junior | Sprints
Gabby Thomas had herself a day at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.
Thomas won five titles, including individual crowns in the 100, 200 and long jump. It was in the 200 where Thomas set a meet record with her time of 22.76 into a slight headwind.
Perhaps the crowning moment for Thomas at Franklin Field, however, was her comeback on the anchor leg of the 4×400. Thomas got the baton down nearly three seconds and gave the Crimson the win by .04 seconds with her 49.44 split.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 7, 2018
This is the first time in her career that Thomas was named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season. Thomas earned Harvard’s first outdoor award since Courtney Smith in 2016.
Sophomore | Throws
Nils Fischer posted the top javelin throw in NCAA Division II this past weekend at the Lone Star Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Fischer’s hurl of 76.48m (250-11) was good for an Automatic Qualifying Mark, but more impressively, it was the third-best mark in NCAA Division II history. No one else in the entire country had as long a throw as Fischer this past weekend, and the native of Germany has now run his unbeaten streak to three consecutive meets.
This is Fischer’s second National Athlete of the Week honor this season, and third overall.
Junior | Distance
Caroline Kurgat continued her already impressive junior season with an outstanding performance in the 5000 at the Payton Jordan Invitational.
The native of Eldoret, Kenya, ran the third-fastest time in NCAA Division II history with a mark of 15:41.21, winning her section and besting a slew of NCAA Division I runners. She improved upon her own GNAC record in the event with her outing, and her mark was the fifth-best time on the week of any collegiate performer.
This is Kurgat’s second National Athlete of the Week honor during this outdoor campaign, as well as fifth overall this year, as she picked up the honor three times during the cross country season.
Senior | Horizontal Jumps
Woodstown, New Jersey
Before this past weekend, the last time a man cracked the NCAA Division III all-time chart in the long jump was 2013. The top-5 marks all happened before the turn of the millennium.
Ta’riq Thomas changed all of that at the MAC Championships.
Thomas soared 7.86m (25-9½) on his sixth attempt to PR by nearly two feet. That moved Thomas to No. 3 on the all-time chart behind record holder Shawn Watson and Leonard Jones.
The senior from Woodstown, New Jersey, is also ranked third nationally in the triple jump and took over that spot on the list following his effort of 15.18m (49-9¾) this past weekend.
Thomas is the first athlete from Delaware Valley to earn a National Athlete of the Week honor from the USTFCCCA.
Sophomore | Sprints
Wadeline Jonathas is back at it again.
This past weekend at the New England DIII Championships, Jonathas lowered her own NCAA DIII record in the 100 with a wind-aided time of 11.41. Her previous PR was 11.50.
Jonathas also won the 200, long jump and helped out on the winning 4×100 relay.
This is the ninth time that Jonathas has been named National Athlete of the Week by the USTFCCCA dating back to last year, including twice during this outdoor circuit.
Freshman | Throws
Markim Felix had one of the finest weeks in the javelin of any athlete in the nation, as the freshman from Marlmount, Grenada, posted the top NJCAA Division I mark with a toss of 76.29m (250-3). His throw was the second-best mark of anyone in the nation in the event on the weekend, while three of his other throws in that series were in the top-seven on the week.
This is Felix’s first National Athlete of the Week honor, and the second for a men’s athlete from South Plains CC this season. Felix joins Fabian Edoki (March 27) as having won awards from South Plains CC this outdoor season.
Sophomore | Jumps
Abigail Kwarteng notched an event-title winning 1.87m (6-1½) in the high jump at the Texas Tech Masked Rider Invite this past weekend, putting herself atop the NJCAA Division I Descending Order List.
As a matter of fact, no one in the nation had a better high jump mark this past weekend than the native of Ghana. Kwarteng also finished third in the triple jump at the meet with a leap of 12.15m (39-10½).
This is Kwarteng’s third National Athlete of the Week honor this season, as she also picked up the award on March 27 and April 10.
Freshman | Sprints
St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Zenron Chance notched the top time in the 400 hurdles in NJCAA Division III this past weekend at the Tom Farrell Classic. With a time of 56.27, the native of St. Vincent & The Grenadines placed first in the event out of a total of 18 competitors.
This marks Chance’s first National Athlete of the Week honor, and he becomes the first man from Kingsborough CC to win the award this season.
Freshman | Multis
Clay, New York
Malerie Belles posted not one, but two top-two NJCAA Division III marks this past weekend at the NJCAA Region III Track & Field Meet. The native of Clay, New York, recorded a 1.52m (4-11¾) in the high jump, which sits just under an inch behind the national leader. Belles also scored 2,074 in the heptathlon. Both marks were good for event titles at the meet.
This marks Belles’ first National Athlete of the Week honor, and she becomes the first track & field athlete – regardless of gender – to win the award from Herkimer County CC during either the indoor or outdoor track & field seasons.