NCAA & NJCAA Indoor T&F National Athletes of the Week (December 13)
NEW ORLEANS — Collegiate track & field stars made history this past weekend.
Brian Barraza and Sha’Keela Saunders left their mark on the grand scale, while the six other National Athletes of the Week for Indoor Track & Field stood out among their divisions.
Without further ado, here is the second batch of National Athletes of the Week for the 2016-17 Indoor Track & Field season.
- NCAA Division I Men — Brian Barraza, Houston
- NCAA Division I Women — Sha’Keela Saunders, Kentucky
- NCAA Division II Men — Myles Pringle, Ashland
- NCAA Division II Women — Mel Herl, Chadron State
- NCAA Division III Men — Roman Hill, Benedictine (Ill.)
- NCAA Division III Women — Monique Newton, Oberlin
- NJCAA Division I Men — Thomas Williams, Middlesex CC
- NJCAA Division I Women — Allison Lenox, CC of Rhode Island
National Athlete of the Week is an award selected and presented by the USTFCCCA Communications Staff at the beginning of each week to 8 collegiate outdoor track & field athletes (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.
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.
El Paso, Texas
No American man in history had ever run his first sub-4 minute mile in the month of December. In fact, no man in collegiate history had ever gone sub-4 in December competition.
Well, that changed this past weekend in College Station, Texas.
Brian Barraza clocked a time of 3:58.66 at the Texas A&M-hosted Reveille Invitational. Barraza ended up beating his closest competitor by 17 seconds.
Time will only tell if that mark ends up qualifying him for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. If so, it would be his first trip to NCAAs on the track.
Sha’Keela Saunders made history this past weekend in Bloomington, Indiana.
Saunders, a senior at Kentucky, is the first woman in world history to jump beyond 22 feet in the long jump this early in the indoor season. She launched herself 6.73m (22-1) on her first attempt at the 2016 Hoosier Open and eventually won by two feet.
That mark also moved Saunders into a tie for the 10th best performer in collegiate indoor history with TCU’s Lorraine Ugen.
Myles Pringle didn’t want to wait around to auto qualify for NCAAs.
So he did twice at the Kent State Golden Flash Gala, his second meet of the season.
First, Pringle popped a DII-leading and career best mark of 2.17m (7-1 ½) in the high jump on his second attempt at that bar.
He couldn’t stop there as momentum carried him into the 400, where he cruised to a time of 46.11. That beat the runner-up to the finish line by more than one second.
Pringle closed the lid on the day with a strong anchor leg in the 4×400 as he helped Ashland to a provisional qualifying time in that event.
Mel Herl made quite the splash in her second meet of the season.
Herl unleashed a titanic heave of 21.89m (71-10) on her second attempt in the weight throw. That effort put her 4th on the DII all-time list and makes her the 2nd best performer behind Kaitlyn Long. Not only that, she also took over the 2016 DII lead from Long, the defending NCAA champ in the event.
She wasn’t done there as she hurled one 21.63m (70-11) on her 5th attempt for the 9th best throw in DII history.
Roman Hill opened the 2016 season with a bang at the Warrior Invitational.
Hill, a sophomore, flew 7.40m (24-3 ½) in the long jump to take over the DIII lead and smash his previous PR by nearly two feet.
It took Monique Newton a little while to warm up this past weekend at the Kent State Golden Flash Gala, but once she did the competition had to watch out.
Newton launched the shot 15.17m (49-9 ¼) on her final attempt, which moved her into 9th place on the all-time DIII indoor list. That was also the farthest throw indoors by a DIII woman in the past three years.
Matawan, New Jersey
Thomas Williams ran a NJCAA-leading 1:25.60 over 600 meters at the Seahawk Shootout this past weekend. The freshman placed 8th out of 41 entrants.
Allison Lenox notched a qualifying mark for NJCAAs this past weekend in the 600 meters despite only running 100 meters less. Lenox clocked a time of 1:33.22 in the 500 meters, which converts to a 1:33.22 and puts her well ahead of the rest of the NJCAA.