NCAA & NJCAA OTF National Athletes of the Week (March 29)
NEW ORLEANS – What an incredible weekend!
Here are the National Athletes of the Week in NCAA and NJCAA Track & Field for March 29.
- NCAA Division I Men – Tripp Piperi, Texas
- NCAA Division I Women – Alia Armstrong, LSU
- NCAA Division II Men – Benjamin Azamati, West Texas A&M
- NCAA Division II Women – Celine Ritter, Lee (Tenn.)
- NCAA Division III Men – Keaton Wood, Linfield
- NCAA Division III Women – Esther Seeland, Messiah
- NJCAA Men – South Plains (Texas) 4×800 Relay
- NJCAA Women – Aaliyah Moore, Monroe-New Rochelle (N.Y.)
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 – Tripp Piperi, Texas
Grad Student | Throws
The Woodlands, Texas
Tripp Piperi obliterated a fabled meet record, smashed a legend’s school record and inched closer to the upper echelon of collegiate shot putters with one throw on Saturday afternoon.
Piperi launched a massive put of 21.54m (70-8) in the fifth round of a remarkable series at the Texas Relays, which took down both of those aforementioned records formerly held by Longhorn legend and current world record-holder and two-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Crouser. That effort also advanced Piperi to No. 13 on the all-time collegiate chart with the best mark since 2019 (Jordan Geist).
During Saturday’s sequence, Piperi had four marks of more than 21.00m (68-10¾) and another right on the cusp at 20.98m. That kind of consistency is nothing new to Piperi, who threw farther than 21 meters four times in a runner-up effort at the NCAA Indoor meet.
This is the second year in a row that a male athlete from Texas has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season. O’Brien Wasome previously earned the honor to March 9, 2021, following a sterling performance in the triple jump. Both of those honors – Piperi and Wasome – are the only two times the Longhorns have been nationally lauded outdoors.
Sophomore | Sprints/Hurdles
New Orleans, Louisiana
Alia Armstrong has no equal in the 100-meter hurdles.
Armstrong set an all-time, all-conditions collegiate best of 12.33 (+2.5) this past weekend at the Texas Relays. The LSU star blasted off the start line like a rocket and left everybody else racing for second place. By the time Armstrong crossed the finish line, history had been made.
No collegian covered 100 meters and cleared 10 barriers faster than Armstrong, regardless of wind reading. Even collegiate record-holder and 2013 The Bowerman winner Brianna Rollins topped out at 12.39 in her collegiate career. The previous all-conditions collegiate best was 12.44 (+5.3), established by 2010 The Bowerman winner Queen Harrison in her Bowerman year.
This is the first time that a female athlete from LSU has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season since Aleia Hobbs on May 2, 2017.
Sophomore | Sprints
Akim Oda, Ghana
Benjamin Azamati isn’t content with NCAA Division II history any longer.
Azamati has his eyes on a bigger prize – collegiate history.
This past weekend at the Texas Relays, Azamati stopped the clock at a wind-legal 9.90 (+2.0) in the prelims of the 100 meters to equal the fourth-fastest performance in collegiate history. That matched the same effort by Trayvon Bromell back in 2015. Now, Azamati only trails 2017 The Bowerman winner Christian Coleman (9.82), 2019 The Bowerman finalist Divine Oduduru (9.86) and 2011 The Bowerman winner Ngoni Makusha (9.89) on the all-time chart.
Exactly one year before that, Azamati went 9.97 (+1.5) at the same meet to demolish a 38-year-old NCAA DII record formerly held by Darrell Green. Before the season was over, Azamati added four more marks superior to Green’s best of 10.08 and owned the five fastest marks in NCAA DII history.
This is the third time in the past two years that Azamati has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season. Azamati previously earned the honor on March 30 and May 11 last year.
Grad Student | Distance
Celine Ritter rose to the occasion this past weekend.
Ritter finished 11th in the top section of the 10,000m at the Raleigh Relays in a PR of 33:42.90. That mark also left Ritter 16th on the NCAA DII all-time chart with the third-fastest effort turned in this early in the season (Caroline Kurgat set the NCAA DII record of 32:08.09 on March 29, which bettered her previous PR of 32:33.24 set the previous year on March 30).
While it’s safe to say Ritter isn’t a stranger to national plaudits, this is the time that she has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season. This is also the first time that a female athlete from Lee (Tenn.) has earned national honors outdoors as well.
Senior | Combined Events
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Keaton Wood etched his name into NCAA Division III history this past weekend.
Competing at the Adams-Klein Combined Events Invitational in Westmont, California, Wood compiled 7254 points in the decathlon to move up to No. 9 on the divisional all-time chart. It is also the best total ever turned in by an NCAA DIII athlete before April 16.
Wood put forth quite the effort over the two-day affair, recording PRs in five of the ten events: 100 (11.01), 400 (49.07), 1500 (4:38.32), 110H (14.73) and high jump (1.96m/6-5). He ranks among the top-10 national performers in four events now, including the decathlon.
This is the first time since 2017 that a male athlete from Linfield has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season. Jake Mihelich previously earned the honor on March 21, 2017, nearly two years to the day after hauling in his first national honor on March 24, 2015.
Senior | Mid-Distance
State College, Pennsylvania
Esther Seeland is in a league of her own.
Seeland was the top finisher out of 123 athletes in the 800 meters at the Raleigh Relays this past weekend with her mark of 2:05.01. That time sent her to victory in the elite section of the event, gave her the 12th fastest performance in NCAA Division III history and earned her a victory over current NCAA DIII record-holder Emily Richards, who now competes professionally.
Richards and Seeland have been in the same sentence a lot over the past few years. Seeland took down Richards’ NCAA DIII indoor record earlier this year and came within two seconds of her lofty outdoor record. The Messiah standout is the No. 2 performer on the all-time NCAA DIII outdoor chart at 2:02.52, while Richards sits alone at the top with her 2:00.62 effort from 2017.
This is the third time in the past two years that Seeland has been named National Athlete of the Week during the outdoor season. Seeland previously earned national honors last year on April 13 and April 27. She remains the only athlete in Messiah program history to be honored.
Among the welcome return to the 94th Texas Relays was the Men’s 4×800 Relay, and nobody celebrated more than South Plains College, who fielded an all-freshman foursome to become the first junior college team to win the event. Their time of 7:20.31 rates No. 2 on the NJCAA all-time list.
All four members had a split time faster than each of their PRs.
Kimar Farquharson opened up for the Texans with a 1:50.48 split, faster than his PR of 1:50.85 that he ran in winning the NJCAA Indoor title. Dwight Mason, another finalist from the NJCAA Indoor 800, followed with a 1:52.86 second leg that was faster than his PR of 1:53.48 from a week prior.
Running the third leg was Mehdi Yanouri, runner-up in the 1000m at the NJCAA Indoor Championships who brought SPC from sixth place to second with a 1:49.05 split (his fastest time prior was 1:50.56 from last year).
Anchoring the team was Aron Tanui, the 1000m champ at the NJCAA Indoor who far surpassed his 1:53.57 PR with a scintillating 1:47.93 split that moved the Texans from second to victory by a margin of 3.72 seconds.
This is the seventh time in program history that male athletes from South Plains have earned National Athlete of the Week honors in outdoor track & field, and the first since 2018.
Sophomore | Georgetown, Guyana
Aaliyah Moore kicked off her outdoor season in top form.
Twice a winner at the NJCAA Indoor Championships earlier this month (1000 meters and as anchor on the distance medley relay), Moore set her focus on the 800 meters at the Raleigh Relays. She won her section in 2:12.26, which leads the NJCAA outdoors and is just shy of her 2:12.00 indoor best.
This is Moore’s third time being honored as National Athlete of the Week, having earned the distinction in cross country and indoor track & field. For the Monroe-New Rochelle program, it’s the fourth such honor in women’s outdoor track & field, and first since 2019.