NCAA & NJCAA ITF National Athletes of the Week (Jan. 25)

NEW ORLEANS – Did you see what happened this past weekend?

Like the monstrous comeback to win the 4×400 at the Red Raider Open from Kentucky’s Kennedy Lightner, an athlete who also moved up to No. 2 on the All-College List in the 200 earlier in the meet?

Do you know how hard it was to pick National Athletes of the Week?

Well, here are the National Athletes of the Week in NCAA & NJCAA Indoor Track & Field.

Find out more about each of these athletes 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 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 – Israel Oloyede, Grand Canyon

Senior | Throws
Phoenix, Arizona

The all-time top-10 in the men’s weight throw is tough to make.

If you crack the top-5, you better believe you’re doing something right.

Israel Oloyede soared all the way to No. 5 this past weekend at the Martin Luther King Collegiate Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Oloyede, who competed at Arizona for the past few years, launched the weight 24.45m (80-2¾) to etch his name into the record book. He also had a mark of 23.31m (76-5¾) that would rank third on the Descending Order List.

Just 1cm separates Oloyede from the top-4 and 3cm from the top-3, but after that, it gets a bit tougher. Former Ashland star Kibwe Johnson sits second in collegiate history at 25.08m (82-3½) with record-holder Michael Lihrman, formerly of Wisconsin, at 25.58m (83-11¾). The closest anybody has come to Lihrman’s record since he set it on February 28, 2015, was Conor McCullough of Southern California two weeks later at the NCAA meet at 24.48m (80-3¾).

This is the first time in program history that an athlete from Grand Canyon has been named the National Athlete of the Week in any of our sports. Oloyede is also the first athlete from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) to earn the honor indoors or outdoors since at least 2015.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Adelaide Aquilla, Ohio State

Senior | Throws
Rocky River, Ohio

Don’t look now, but Adelaide Aquilla is in postseason form.

That’s bad news for anybody trying to catch up to the Olympian and shot put double champion from the 2021 NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships.

Aquilla improved her indoor PR by 1cm in a winning effort at the Carolina Challenge this past weekend, going from 19.08m (62-7¼) to 19.09m (62-7¾). That might not sound like much, but it cemented Aquilla as the fifth-best performer in collegiate history on a tough list and neared her all-conditions PR of 19.12m (62-8¾) set last year at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Aquilla also had four other marks that would top the current NCAA DI Descending Order List.

This marks the first time in program history that an athlete from Ohio State has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. She is also just the fifth female athlete from the Big Ten to earn the honor since 2015 (Three of those athletes were from 2019).

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Christian Noble, Lee (Tenn.)

Graduate Student | Distance
Greenfield, Indiana

Sub four-minute mile…check.

Christian Noble became the sixth man in NCAA Division II history to break the four minute barrier in the mile, regardless of track size. He ran 3:59.70 at the Vanderbilt Invitational to finish fourth overall behind three NCAA DI Ole Miss athletes Not only did Noble take over the NCAA DII lead in the mile, he also led teammate Carson Bix to the NCAA DII No. 2 time of 4:01.15.

Elsewhere this season on the Descending Order List, Noble is also ranked No. 3 in the 5000 at 13:52.59, which he ran at the BU Season Opener on December 4, 2021.

It’s been a historic career for Noble as he also set the NCAA DII records in both the 3000 and 5000 last year, running 7:51.46 and 13:37.39, respectively.

This is the first time this season, and fourth overall, that Noble has been named National Athlete of the Week. He previously earned the honor three other times during the 2021 indoor season.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Jaylah Walker, Azusa Pacific

Junior | Sprints/Hurdles
Riverside, California

It was a busy weekend for Jaylah Walker that ended with three top-10 nationally ranked performances for Azusa Pacific.

Down at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Collegiate Invite in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Walker opened up the meet with a 8.66 in the 60H. She got better as the day went on, running 55.50 in the 400 to finish second overall and as the top collegian. She returned to the track for one final run of the day, finishing third in the 200 in 24.38. 

On the NCAA DII Descending Order List, Walker is ranked No. 2 in both the 200 and 400 and No. 10 in the 60H.

Walker is a key figure in Azusa Pacific’s success, which includes helping the Cougars capture the program’s first NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field title last season. Walker won a national title in the 400H and was the national runner-up in the 100H.

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

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Alex Phillip, John Carroll

Junior | Distance
Akron, Ohio

Alex Phillip showed range and grit this past weekend.

Competing in the mile at the Michigan Invitational, Phillip finished runner-up in a strong field with a time of 4:05.50. That marked a huge, 10-second PR for the individual champion at the 2021 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. He actually dropped his mile time more than 20 seconds since stepping on campus at John Carroll University.

Phillip is now the national leader in both the mile and 5000, showing quite a bit of range. He still tops the NCAA DIII Descending Order List in the longer event with his 13:58.42 effort back in early December at the Grand Valley State Holiday Open.

This marks the second time this season that Phillip has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. He previously earned the honor back on December 6, 2021.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Emma Kelley, Washington (Mo.)

Sophomore | Mid-Distance
St. Louis, Missouri

Emma Kelley went right to the top of the Descending Order List in two events.

Kelley, competing at the I-55 Tri against Illinois Wesleyan and UChicago, won the 800 in a national-leading 2:10.86 (beating the current second-ranked athlete in the process) and anchored the Bears’ top-billed 4×400 relay to victory in 3:56.16.

This is the first time in program history that a female athlete from WashU has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. Kelley joins Deko Ricketts as the only two Bears to earn the national honor (Ricketts took it home on January 26, 2016).

NJCAA MEN – Kimar Farquharson, South Plains (Texas)

Freshman | Mid-Distance
Kingston, Jamaica

Kimar Farquharson put his name high up on the all-time NJCAA indoor lists twice at Friday’s Red Raider Open.

First up was a new distance for him: 600 yards. The freshman fared just fine, clocking 1:09.33 to move to No. 4 all-time in NJCAA history. He finished the day with anchoring the South Plains 4 x 400-meter team with a 46.14 split to a time of 3:08.44. That’s the No. 4 time ever in NJCAA history, behind three marks by South Plains in previous years.

Farquharson is also No. 1 on the NJCAA qualifiers list in a third event, having run 1:51.65 (converting to 1:51.33 non-altitude) the previous weekend.

He is the eighth male athlete from South Plains to be named National Athlete of the Week in indoor track & field.

NJCAA WOMEN – Aliyah McNeil, Iowa Western CC

Sophomore | Jumps
Santa Cruz, Jamaica

Alliyah McNeil is in a familiar place, leading the NJCAA high jump list.

McNeil’s first effort this year at the Northwest Missouri Open produced a lifetime best of 1.77m (5-9¾) that not only is the seasonal leader, but also enters her among the top-10 ever at =No. 9. McNeil won the NJCAA Indoor title last year and was second outdoors; she was the list leader during both times.

McNeil is the third female athlete from Iowa Western to earn this award in indoor track & field.