NCAA & NJCAA OTF National Athletes of the Week (April 23)

NEW ORLEANS – Seeing is believing.

And what we saw this past weekend across the collegiate track & field landscape is that athletes are stepping up in a big way with the postseason rapidly approaching.

Here are those 10 athletes who stood out the most and were named National Athletes of the Week by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Monday.

Find out more about each of these athletes by clicking their names or by 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 indoor track & field athletes (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions and the two NJCAA divisions that sponsor outdoor track & field).

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 – Divine Oduduru, Texas Tech

Junior | Sprints
Delta State, Nigeria

It’s only fitting that a man named Divine would shine on Easter Weekend.

Within the span of an hour at the Michael Johnson Invitational, Divine Oduduru established a pair of world leads and clocked two of the fastest times in collegiate outdoor history in the process.

Oduduru got things started in the 100, where he scorched the track with a wind-legal 9.94. That demolished his previous PR and matched the 11th fastest performance in collegiate history. Less than 45 minutes later, Oduduru returned to the oval for his outdoor debut in the 200. He dazzled the crowd as he turned the half lap in 19.76, which is the second fastest wind-legal mark ever recorded during the collegiate season (Only record-holder Walter Dix ran faster at 19.69).

All told, that made the junior from Delta State, Nigeria, only the 10th man in world history to go sub-10 in the 100 and sub-20 in the 200 in the same day.

This is the first time that both Oduduru and the Texas Tech men’s program has been honored with National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season. Hannah Carson gave the Red Raiders their first-ever outdoor National Athlete of the Week back in 2016.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Laulauga Tausaga, Iowa

Junior | Throws
Spring Valley, California

Laulauga Tausaga made a triumphant return to her home state of California this past weekend.

The Spring Valley native did The Golden State Shuffle as she dutifully danced between the Mt. SAC Relays on Friday and the Beach Invitational on Saturday. She competed in three throwing events between those two meets, double dipping in the discus and shot put in Long Beach and solely picking up the hammer in Torrance.

By the end of the weekend, Tausaga won three events titles (shared one of them), tied for the national lead in the shot put and is now ranked second nationally in the discus. Not a bad way to spend 48 hours.

Her best mark of 18.02m (59-1½) in the shot put ties her with Alyssa Wilson of UCLA atop the leaderboard in that event, while her heave of 62.28m (204-4) in the discus sits second behind only Shadae Lawrence of Colorado State, who became the sixth best performer in collegiate history in that event just a day earlier (It should be mentioned that Tausaga beat Lawrence in head-to-head competition at the Beach Invitational).

This is the first time that Tausaga has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season and the first time that Iowa took home an outdoor honor in program history.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Zach Panning, Grand Valley State

Senior | Distance
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Zach Panning is a National Athlete of the Week selection after he etched his name into the NCAA DII record book once again this past weekend.

The senior ran a 13:37.94 to take ninth in a stacked field of NCAA DI and professional athletes in the top-seeded section of the 5000 at the Bryan Clay Invitational. It slots in as the ninth-best performance in the event in NCAA DII history.

Earlier this season, Panning clocked the ninth best performance in NCAA DII history over 10,000 meters at the Raleigh Relays.

Panning is the first male athlete from Grand Valley State to be named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Rachael Walters, Grand Valley State

Senior | Mid-Distance
Belding, Michigan

Rachael Walters stood out the most out of any female athlete at the NCAA DII level this past weekend after a standout performance at the Bryan Clay Invitational.

The Belding, Michigan native ran a 2:04.15 over 800 meters to place third (second collegiate finisher) in a field stacked with NCAA DI and professional athletes. That is the 11th-best performance in NCAA DII history and currently ranks ninth among all collegians in 2019.

This is the first time that Walters has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season. She joins teammate Ellianne Kimes as Lakers to receive the women’s accolade.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Dhruvil Patel, North Central (Ill.)

Senior | Distance
Skokie, Illinois

The NCAA Division III 5000-meter record had stood for 42 years.

Notice the eighth word in that previous sentence is in the past tense – not the present.

That’s because Dhruvil Patel reduced the 12.5-lap standard to dust this past weekend at the Cardinal Classic. The North Central (Ill.) star crossed the finish line in 13:51.40, nearly two seconds better than Dale Kramer’s mark of 13:53.2h from 1977 (Dan Henderson has the all-dates, all-time best of 13:50.0h).

Patel has been on fire this outdoor season. Late last month, Patel clocked the third fastest time in NCAA DIII history over 10,000 meters at 28:50.87 and was named National Athlete of the Week for his efforts.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Gabrielle Noland, Loras

Junior | Sprints
Rockford, Illinois

Gabrielle Noland took control of the NCAA DIII Descending Order List this past weekend.

Noland, competing at the Loras Easter Mid-Week Invitational, seized the national lead in both the 100 and the 200 with her performances. Her wind-aided time in the 100 of 11.87 is .03 seconds ahead of Emory’s Dani Bland, while her wind-legal time in the 200 of 24.14 is 0.33 seconds ahead of Concordia University of Chicago’s Kayla Armstrong.

The junior standout is also ranked 12th nationally in the 400 at 57.16.

This is the first time that Noland has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season in her career. This is also the first time that the Loras program has been honored during the outdoor season.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Alencar Pereira, Barton (Kan.) CC

Freshman | Throws
Sao Jose do Rio Pret, Brazil

For the third time this outdoor season, Alencar Pereira is a National Athlete of the Week honoree after once again resetting the NJCAA record in the hammer throw at the Michael Johnson Invitational.

Taking on a field of NCAA DI athletes, the freshman launched a best toss of 68.31m (224-1) to win the event. The mark would rank him 16th overall at the NCAA DI level and broke his old record, that was set back on April 5, by nearly three feet.

Pereira was also named National Athlete of the Week on March 19 and April 2.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Yoveinny Mota, Barton (Kan.) CC

Freshman | Sprints & Hurdles
Caracas, Venezuela

Yoveinny Mota turned in two outstanding performances at the Michael Johnson Invitational this past weekend.

In taking on a field of NCAA DI athletes, Mota placed third overall in the 100H with an all-time, all-conditions NJCAA best of 13.30. She also ran a leg of the program’s 4×100 relay team which recorded a time of 45.19 to take fourth at the meet. It is the best time posted at the JUCO level this season.

Mota is just the second woman in program history to be named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season, joining Lydia Mato back in 2015.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Jonathan Gonzalez, Suffolk (N.Y.) CC

Sophomore | Mid-Distance & Distance
Brentwood, New York

Jonathan Gonzalez decided to take over the national leaderboard after his showing at the Widener Invitational.

The sophomore posted the top times at the NJCAA DIII level this outdoor season in the 800 (1:55.26), 1500 (4:01.56) and 5000 (15:52.19) this past weekend.

This is the first time that Gonzalez has been honored as National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season. He is also the fourth male athlete in program history to earn the distinction.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Jeanne-Marie Johnson, Kingsborough (N.Y.)

Sophomore | Sprints
Staten Island, New York

Jeanne-Marie Johnson is a National Athlete of the Week after posting a quick time this past weekend.

The Staten Island native moved to the top of the NJCAA DIII leaderboard in the 100 after she ran 12.36 at the Morgan State Legacy Meet this past weekend.

It is the second week in a row that a female athlete from Kingsborough (N.Y.) has won the national honor.