NEW ORLEANS -- Turn back the clock 12 months and “The Year of the Vault” was the craze sweeping the college track & field world and, consequently, the women’s Watch List for its most prestigious award, The Bowerman.
Back to real-time, this first month of 2016 showed us that the new year could be a watershed moment in several other events – including a burgeoning, historic rivalry in the combined events.
The first regular-season edition of the women’s Watch List for The Bowerman reflected that accordingly.
Wednesday’s list announced by The Bowerman Watch List Committee marked the 2016 Watch List debut for three-time NCAA combined events champion Kendell Williams of Georgia, the lone newcomer to this month’s 10-woman list.
|Quanesha Burks||JR||Alabama||Sprints/Jumps||Hartselle, Ala.|
|Kyra Jefferson||SR/RS JR||Florida||Sprints||Detroit, Mich.|
|Akela Jones||SR||Kansas State||Combined Events||St. Michael, Barbados|
|Shamier Little||SO||Texas A&M||Hurdles||Chicago, Ill.|
|Keturah Orji||SO||Georgia||Jumps||Mount Olive, N.J.|
|Demi Payne||SR (o)||Stephen F. Austin||Pole Vault||New Braunfels, Texas|
|Raevyn Rogers||SO||Oregon||Mid-Distance||Houston, Texas|
|Raven Saunders||SO||Mississippi||Throws||Charleston, S.C.|
|Shelbi Vaughan||SR||Texas A&M||Throws||Azle, Texas|
|Kendell Williams||JR||Georgia||Combined Events||Marietta, Ga.|
|Also Receiving Votes: Kaitlyn Long, Winona State; Cindy Ofili, Michigan; Shayla Sanders, Florida; irena Sediva, Virginia Tech; Molly Seidel, Notre Dame; Jasmine Todd, Oregon|
Both Williams – who is making her 11th appearance on the Watch List in the past three seasons – and returner Akela Jones of Kansas State were in hot pursuit of Williams’ 4678-point collegiate pentathlon record in January, though both ultimately came up just shy. Jones came the closest at 4643 points for the No. 2 score in collegiate history, followed by a 4558-point effort by Williams for the No. 8 spot on the all-time performances list.
Both women are also near the top of the NCAA DI descending order lists in the high jump, long jump and hurdles.
Combined-event athletes haven’t been the only women chasing all-time status in the early goings of the indoor season. A pair of sophomore sensations have been (not so) gently rapping, rapping at the chamber door of collegiate history in Raevyn Rogers of Oregon and Raven Saunders of Ole Miss.
Rogers has yet to compete in her signature 800-meter event – the event in which she is the fourth-fastest woman in collegiate history and the defending champion outdoors – but regardless she is already in historic form. She ran 1:26.34 over 600 meters on Washington’s oversized track for the fastest-ever time by a collegian, and split sub-52 anchoring Oregon’s 4×400 relay this past weekend.
Saunders is having unprecedented early-season success in the shot put, as her most recent 18.98m (62-3¼) winning mark has all sorts of superlatives attached to it: No. 3 on the all-time collegiate performers list, fifth-farthest throw in collegiate history, and farthest-ever throw by a collegian in the month of January. It was one of six 18m+ throws for her so far in 2016; the rest of the country has a combined zero.
Alabama junior Quanesha Burks also added her name to the all-time collegiate performers list in her signature long jump event, checking in as part of a three-way tie at No. 10 with a leap of 6.71m (22-¼). She’s now a member of the 13-member club of collegians who have broken the 22-foot barrier indoors.
Florida’s Kyra Jefferson leads the country at 200 meters in 22.72 after just one race, while Keturah Orji of Georgia leads the way in the triple jump at 13.55m (44-5½) in just one competition.
Shamier Little, whose primary 400-meter hurdles event isn’t contested until the outdoor season, is one of five NCAA DI women to have gone sub-53 in the open 400 meters. Her teammate Shelbi Vaughan also patiently awaits her time to shine in the outdoor-only discus event, though in the meantime she’s already improved her weight throw PR by a meter-and-a-half to 18.73m (61-5½).
Coming full circle to last year’s “Year of the Vault”: indoor collegiate record holder and 2015 Bowerman Finalist Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin remains on the Watch List during a redshirted indoor campaign. She has no remaining indoor eligibility for the Lumberjacks (but will be back for the outdoor season), and her accomplishments competing as an unattached athlete during the winter will not be considered for Bowerman voting purposes.
Six women missed the top-10 cut but were included among those also receiving votes. Michigan’s collegiate-leading hurdler Cindy Ofili dropped from the preseason top-10, and she was joined by Florida’s collegiate-leading 60-meter sprinter Shayla Sanders, reigning outdoor javelin champ Irena Sediva of Virginia Tech, defending cross country and outdoor 10,000-meter champion Molly Seidel of Notre Dame, Oregon’s Jasmine Todd and collegiate-leading weight thrower Kaitlyn Long of NCAA DII’s Winona State.
Notably, Long is the first DII athlete to appear on the Women’s Watch list since Western State high jumper Barbara Szabo in 2014.