NCAA & NJCAA ITF National Athletes of the Week (Jan. 19)
NEW ORLEANS – Collegiate track & field is back in a record-breaking way!
Outstanding performances highlighted the first major weekend of the 2021 season.
You better believe those athletes who turned in those efforts were named National Athletes of the Week on Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
- NCAA Division I Men – KC Lightfoot, Baylor
- NCAA Division I Women – Ruth Usoro, Texas Tech
- NCAA Division II Men – Christian Noble, Lee (Tenn.)
- NCAA Division II Women – Haven Lander, Pittsburg State
- NCAA Division III Men – Joe Freiburger, Wartburg
- NCAA Division III Women – Anastasia Tucker, Hope
- NJCAA Men – Courtney Lawrence, Cloud County CC
- NJCAA Women – Victoria Adu, Iowa Central CC
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, when applicable (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions and the 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. 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.
Junior | Pole Vault
Lee’s Summit, Missouri
Welcome to the top of the collegiate record book, KC Lightfoot!
Trust us, KC: The ceiling has never gone higher.
Lightfoot, a junior from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, set the collegiate indoor record in the pole vault at the Corky Classic this past weekend. After entering at 5.44m (17-10¼), he cleared each of the next four bars on his first attempt with ease, including the collegiate record of 5.94m (19-5¾).
If you’re wondering how long the old collegiate record lasted, try 350 days. Chris Nilsen of South Dakota went 5.93m (19-5½) last year to take down Mondo Duplantis’ near one-year-old mark from 2019. Collegiate indoor pole vault records don’t last as long as they used to, huh?
This is the second year in a row that Lightfoot has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. His last honor came on February 18, 2020, after a sterling effort at the Iowa State Classic where he became the fifth best performer in collegiate history.
Senior | Horizontal Jumps
Delta State, Nigeria
If there was ever a doubt that collegians weren’t champing at the bit to compete again, those questions could have been put to bed after watching Ruth Usoro’s first attempt in the triple jump at the Texas Tech Corky Classic.
Usoro, a senior from Nigeria, bounded 14.28m (46-10¼) to open her season. In doing so, Usoro became the second best performer in collegiate history behind 2018 The Bowerman winner Keturah Orji of Georgia, who soared 14.53m (47-8) three years ago.
On her very next attempt, Usoro added a mark of 14.07m (46-2) for some more history. She is now just the third woman in collegiate history with two jumps of 14.00m (45-11¼) or better in a series, joining the aforementioned Orji and Andrea Geubelle of Kansas back in 2013.
Usoro wasn’t done there, though. Later in the meet, she added the nation’s third-best long jump mark of weekend at 6.51m (21-4¼). That is well within shouting distance of her collegiate PR of 6.57m (21-6¾) that she set last year at the Texas Tech Shootout.
This is the first time in program history that a female athlete from Texas Tech has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.
Senior | Distance
Christian Noble picked up right where he left off from the cross country season.
The senior from Greenfield, Indiana, wasted no time in etching his name into the NCAA Division II record book, as he became the fourth fastest performer in division history in the mile at the UAB Vulcan Invite.
Noble finished in 4:00.60 for an 11-second victory, while smashing his previous personal best of 4:13.21 set in 2018. Not only did Noble run the fastest time collegiately this year, his time is the fastest by a NCAA Division II athlete on a regulation 200-meter track since 2014.
He is the second athlete from Lee (Tenn.) to be named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season, joining Josiah Brooks in 2019.
Senior | Pole Vault
The top vault in NCAA Division II now belongs to Haven Lander.
Lander, a senior from Republic, Missouri, opened up her senior year in style at the Crimson & Gold Invitational this past weekend. Her event-winning clearance of 4.06m (13-3¾) came on her third attempt at the height, before missing all three attempts at 4.28m (14-0½). Earlier in the series, Lander also topped 3.96m (12-11 ¾), giving her the top two vaults in NCAA DII this season.
This is the first time that a female athlete from Pittsburg State has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.
Senior | Distance
Holy Cross, Iowa
Joe Freiburger didn’t skip a beat in his return to collegiate competition.
Freiburger, a senior from Holy Cross, Iowa, went undefeated through the fall cross country season and then picked up yet another win in his first race of the winter this past weekend. It came at the Chelsey M. Henkenius Triangular, where he took the 5000 in 14:32.34, nearly 50 seconds faster than the next closest competitor.
That time of 14:32.34 is right off his 14:31.23 PR set last year and would have ranked fifth on the NCAA Division III Descending Order List from the 2020 indoor season.
This is the first time that an athlete from Wartburg has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.
Sophomore | Distance
The last time Anastasia Tucker raced on the track, she PR’d in the 3000.
Well, as much as things change, they certainly stay the same.
Tucker, a sophomore from Midland, Michigan, finished runner-up at the Bob Eubanks Open this past weekend in 9:53.64, squeaking under her previous PR of 9:54.64. That previous PR came last year at the Wartburg Qualifier, nearly 10 months ago now.
If Tucker ran her new best in 2020, she would have ended the season ranked eighth on the NCAA Division III Descending Order List. Now, she is the national leader in the early season.
This is the second time that a female athlete from Hope has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. Erin Herrmann earned those honors on December 6, 2016.
Sophomore | Throws
Courtney Lawrence finished runner-up in the shot put at the NJCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships last year by less than 10 inches.
The sophomore from Jamaica is coming for that top spot in 2021.
Lawrence had a marvelous series this past weekend at the Highland Challenge. He opened with a PR of 18.28m (59-11¾) before unleashing an 18.48m (60-7¾) howitzer on his fifth attempt. In between those, Lawrence recorded a heave of 18.20m (59-8½) for yet another big mark.
This is the first time since 2018 that a male athlete from Cloud County CC has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season (Mobile Thosito on February 6).
Freshman | Throws
Victoria Adu made her collegiate debut in a big way.
Adu, a freshman from Berlin, Germany, didn’t miss the sector once this past weekend at the Coffeyville Winter Invitational in the weight and put five throws over 18.00m (59-0¾), which included her event-winning heave of 18.79m (61-7¾) on her very first attempt.
If Adu hit that mark last year at the NJCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, she would have finished runner-up. As it stands now, she is the national leader.
This is the ninth time in the past five years that a female athlete from Iowa Central CC has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. What is even more remarkable is that this is the first time a field athlete earned the honor for the Tritons under a roof.