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

NEW ORLEANS – The end of the collegiate indoor track & field season is nigh.

That just means athletes are rounding into postseason form and setting collegiate and divisional records.

Here are eight performances from this past weekend that stood out the most 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 (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions as well as 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 – Chris Nilsen, South Dakota

Senior | Pole Vault
Kansas City, Missouri

Talk about raising the bar on the competition.

One week after losing the collegiate lead in the pole vault, Chris Nilsen took it back – and then some – at the Nebraska Tune-Up this past weekend. Nilsen broke the one-year-old collegiate record in the event when he cleared 5.93m (19-5½) on his second attempt at the height. That mark also equaled the No. 4 indoor performer in American history.

That was the second best bar of Nilsen’s collegiate career. The first came last year at the NCAA Outdoor Championships when he broke the meet record with his winning clearance of 5.95m (19-6¼) in Austin, Texas.

This is the second time that Nilsen has been honored as National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season. Nilsen last earned the award on February 20, 2018.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Rachel Tanczos, Notre Dame

Junior | Throws
Danielsville, Pennsylvania

It took Rachel Tanczos one attempt to not only seize the collegiate lead in the weight throw, but to notch an all-time mark in the event.

The junior from Danielsville, Pennsylvania, let it fly this past weekend at the Alex Wilson Invitational as she hit 23.31m (76-5¾) on her first attempt to become the 11th best performer in collegiate history. She also had three other marks that rank in the weekly top-5.

Tanczos has been steadily improving throughout the season. She hit 22.10m (72-6¼) in her first meet, stepped up to 22.51m (73-10¼) in her third and then notched a mark of 22.70m (74-5¾) last week before her breakthrough performance.

This is the first time that a female athlete from Notre Dame has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Quinton Sansing, West Texas A&M

Junior | Sprints
Floresville, Texas

Quinton Sansing put together an impressive outing at the Lone Star Conference Indoor Championships this past weekend.

The junior from Floresville, Texas, put up 20½ points to lead West Texas A&M to a runner-up finish as he won the 400, anchored the winning 4×400 relay and placed second in the 200.

Sansing is now ranked in a tie for the ninth best performer on the Descending Order List in the 400, notched a provisional qualifying mark in the 200 and helped the Buffs to another provisional time in the 4×400.

This is the first time in program history that a male athlete from West Texas A&M has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Saint Augustine’s 4×400 Relay

There is fast.

And then there is Saint Augustine’s in the 4×400 fast.

It was this past weekend at the USC Indoor Open where the Falcons scorched the track to the tune of 3:39.39 for the second fastest performance in NCAA DII history behind the divisional record set of 3:39.24 set by Lincoln (Mo.) 23 years ago.

This is the first time that any athlete or group of athletes from Saint Augustine’s has been named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Taylor Rooney, Gustavus Adolphus

Junior | Hurdles
Andover, Minnesota

Taylor Rooney is approaching historic territory. 

The junior from Andover, Minnesota, clocked another sub-8.05 effort in the 60 Meter Hurdles this past weekend when he went 8.00 at the Maverick Invitational to better his divisional lead. That mark tied him with two other men as the 13th best performer in NCAA Division III history.

Here’s a better stat: Only six men in the past six years have been able to notch three or more sub-8.05 performances in the span of one season. None did it last year.

This is the second time this season that Rooney has been named National Athlete of the Week. Rooney last earned the nod on January 21 after another strong outing.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Alison Beeman, Dubuque

Senior | Sprints
Lakemoore, Illinois

Those in attendance at the Spartan Invitational on Saturday witnessed the fastest indoor race between two women over 200 meters in NCAA Division III history.

To the victor, go the spoils of National Athlete of the Week. And the victor was Alison Beeman of Dubuque.

Beeman and Gabrielle Noland of Loras ripped around the track in 24.49 and 24.50, respectively, as they notched the 10th and 11th fastest performances in NCAA DIII history. It also marked a massive indoor PR for Beeman as her previous best was 24.79, set last year in a third-place effort at the NCAA Championships.

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

NJCAA Men – Wesley Banguria, Colby (Kan.) CC

Sophomore | Distance
Eldoret, Kenya

Wesley Banguria is making it look easy.

The sophomore – who is currently ranked second all-time in NJCAA history in both the mile and the 3000 – went all the way to the top at the Region VI Indoor Championships.

Banguria clocked a time of 13:43.29 in his first 5000 of the year, which is the fastest mark in NJCAA history by 12 seconds, regardless of track size. It should be mentioned that the meet was held on the 300-meter oval at the Robert W. Plaster Center in Pittsburg, Kansas.

This is the third time Banguria has been named National Athlete of the Week during this indoor track & field season. He also earned the honor once last winter and the national cross country champion won it four times in the fall.

NJCAA Women – Lea Grady, Iowa Central CC

Sophomore | Throws
Davenport, Iowa

Lea Grady had no peer this weekend.

Grady dominated the throwing events at the Region XI Indoor Championships, winning by a combined 17 feet. On Friday she defended her shot put title with a lifetime best of 15.77m (51-9) to move to No. 8 on the all-time NJCAA list. Any of her five legal marks would have won as she was up by nine feet on the runner-up. She doubled back on Saturday to take the weight throw at 18.82m (61-9) to win by eight feet.

Grady is the first female field event athlete from Iowa Central to be named National Athlete of the Week during the indoor season.