NCAA & NJCAA ITF National Athletes of the Week (Feb. 23)

NEW ORLEANS –It’s beginning to look a lot like the postseason!

As the lights get brighter, performances will only get better.

Here are eight individuals who stood out from their peers this past weekend and were named National Athletes of the Week on Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

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.

NCAA DIVISION I MEN – Nick Scudder, Charlotte

Sophomore | Distance
Raleigh, North Carolina

Nick Scudder played a big role in helping Charlotte win the men’s team title at the Conference USA Indoor Track & Field Championships this past weekend.

Scudder completed the distance double, snagging the 3000 and 5000 crowns. He started things off with a dominant victory in the 5000 on Saturday night, winning by 37 seconds in a 13:47.51 MR. Then he returned to the track on Sunday to win the 3000 by six seconds in 8:14.02 and led an emphatic 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 sweep by the 49ers in the event.

That mark in the 5000 puts him right in contention for the NCAA Championships on March 11-13 at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He is currently ranked No. 15.

This is the first time in program history that an athlete from Charlotte has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Grace Forbes, Rice

Sophomore | Distance
Wallingford, Pennsylvania

Grace Forbes wouldn’t be denied at the Conference USA Indoor Track & Field Championships this past weekend in Birmingham, Alabama.

Forbes had her hand in three victories, anchoring the winning DMR on Saturday and then doubling back to capture both the mile and 3000 on Sunday.

Her times were equally as impressive toting the baton last for the DMR and in the open mile – 4:37 in the former, 4:37.53 MR in the latter to put herself in prime qualifying position for the NCAA Indoor Championships (Forbes currently sits 12th on the Descending Order List). Then Forbes won the 3000 by more than 20 seconds in 9:18.76 to complete her amazing weekend.

This marks the first time in program history that an athlete from Rice has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Benjamin Azamati, West Texas A&M

Sophomore | Sprints
Akim Oda, Ghana

Benjamin Azamati left his mark at the Lone Star Conference Championships.

The sophomore from Akim Oda, Ghana, set two LSC meet records en route adding two more individual titles to his growing resume. He successfully defended his title in the 60 (6.61) and returned to the track to capture the 200 (20.97) as well.

Not only has Azamati rewritten the conference record book, he continues to put his name among the NCAA DII elites. His 200 makes him the fifth best performer in NCAA DII history, in addition to being the fifth best performer in the 60 at 6.59 – a time he registered earlier this year.

This is the first time this season that an athlete from West Texas A&M has been named National Athlete of the Week. This is the second national honor in program history for the Buffs – Quinton Sansing was the first to receive it last year.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Celine Ritter, Lee (Tenn.)

Senior | Distance
Roesrath, Germany

Celine Ritter etched her name into the NCAA Division II record book.

The senior from Roesrath, Germany, broke a 36-year-old division record in the 3000 at the Camel City Invitational. Ritter finished fifth in the elite section at 9:11.41, bettering the previous NCAA DII record of 9:16.34 set by Gladdes Prieru of Cal Poly back in 1985. It was also a 19.67-second PR for her at the distance.

Ritter is now the national leader in two events on the Descending Order List: the mile (4:44.95) and the 3000.

This is the first time in program history a female athlete from Lee (Tenn.) has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. Ritter earned the honor three times during the fall cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Noah Zastrow, UW-Stout

Senior | Pole Vault
Spencer, Wisconsin

Noah Zastrow continued his ascent into NCAA Division III immortality.

Zastrow cleared 5.40m (17-8½) this past weekend at the UW-La Crosse vs. UW-Stout Dual to cement his spot as the fourth best performer in NCAA DIII history in the pole vault. That was a PR of one centimeter (one-half inch), topping his previous best of 5.39m (17-8¼) from winning the event at the WIAC Indoor Championships last year in late February.

Oh. Zastrow also won the long jump in a season best of 6.68m (21-11).

This is the second week in a row that Zastrow has been named National Athlete of the Week.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Kassie Rosenbum, Loras

Senior | Distance
Guttenberg, Iowa

Kassie Rosenbum has her name all over the NCAA Division III Descending Order List.

Just this past weekend at the Liz Wuertz Invitational, Rosenbum competed in her first 5000 of the indoor season and clocked a time of 16:50.82, which converts down to 16:43.14. That left her on top of the Descending Order List in that event by 21 seconds.

Rosenbum also owns the No. 1 spot in the mile at 4:56.67 (4:59.60) and the No. 2 spot in the 3000 at 9:43.63 (9:48.63), giving two national leads and another runner-up effort.

This is the first time that Rosenbum has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. Rosenbum is a two-time honoree in cross country.

NJCAA MEN – Matteo Capello, Vincennes

Sophomore | Pole Vault
Turino, Italy

Matteo Capello can’t stop making NJCAA history.

Capello improved his PR in the pole vault to 5.40m (17-8½), fortifying his hold as the No. 2 performer in NJCAA history behind Dason Phelps of Paradise Valley CC. Earlier in the series, Capello topped 5.18m (17-0) to bring his career total to 11 of those bars or better, which is an NJCAA all-time best (No other athlete has more than one indoors, according to our records).

This is the second week in a row that Capello has been named National Athlete of the Week. 

NJCAA WOMEN – Mercy Ntia-Obong, Cloud County CC

Sophomore | Sprints
Nigeria

Mercy Ntia-Obong sprinted into the record book this past weekend.

Competing at the NJCAA Region VI Indoor Championships in Pittsburg, Kansas, Ntia-Obong went 7.31 in the 60-meter prelims to become the second best performer in NJCAA history behind former Barton County CC star Veronica Campbell, who clocked 7.26 nearly 19 years ago.

Ntia-Obong eventually won the final by 0.10 seconds at 7.40 and completed the sprint sweep with a 23.84 winner in the 200.

This is the second time this season that Ntia-Obong has been named National Athlete of the Week.