Courtney Okolo from the University of Texas, University of Georgia teammates Keturah Orji and Kendell Williams and Raven Saunders from Ole Miss are the four nominees for the Honda Sport Award for track & field as announced by Chris Voelz, Executive Director of THE Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) today.
The Honda Sport Award has been presented annually by the CWSA for the past 40 years to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA- sanctioned sports and signifies “the best of the best in collegiate athletics”. The winner of the sport award becomes a finalist for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the prestigious 2016 Honda Cup which will be presented on a live telecast on CBS Sports Network on June 27, 2016, in the Founders’ Room at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California in downtown Los, Angeles.
The nominees were chosen by a panel of coaches representing the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). The Honda Sport award winner for track & field will be announced this week after voting by administrators from over 1,000 NCAA member schools. Each NCAA member institution has a vote.
Okolo, a senior from Carrollton, Texas, proved herself to be the most outstanding woman at 400 meters throughout the collegiate track & field season. It can also be argued that Okolo is the top woman at that distance outdoors in collegiate history. During the LSU Alumni Invitational in April, Okolo lowered her own collegiate record to 49.71 and became the first woman to ever post a sub-50 second time in collegiate history. At NCAAs in Eugene, Oregon, Okolo captured her second outdoor quarter-mile title in three years (she also won the indoor crown this year) and led the Longhorns’ to a 4x400 relay title thanks to an incredible effort that saw her overtake two teams in the final 100 meters and overcome a two-second deficit when she got the baton on the anchor leg.
Orji, a sophomore from Mount Olive, New Jersey, had an outdoor season to remember. Over the span of two weeks in the postseason, Orji broke the collegiate record in the triple jump at the East Prelims with a leap of 14.29m (46-10.75) and then increased that standard at the NCAA meet in Eugene, Oregon, to 14.53 meters (47-8) - which also broke the overall American record. Throughout the indoor season Orji shined as well, winning her second of three career NCAA titles (she also won the outdoor title as a freshman last year) and placing fourth at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon.
Saunders, a sophomore from Charleston, South Carolina, is the indoor and outdoor collegiate record holder in the shot put and the outdoor NCAA champion. The sophomore established the indoor mark of 19.23 meters (63-1¼) early in 2016, but waited until the final meet of the outdoor season to leave her mark that record book. On her fifth attempt at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Saunders launched the shot 19.33 meters (63-5) to shatter Meg Ritchie’s 33-year-old record.
Williams, a junior from Marietta, Georgia, is the premier combined-event athlete in the nation after winning both the indoor pentathlon and the outdoor heptathlon this season. Indoors, she won her third consecutive pentathlon title and raised her own collegiate record to 4703 points. Then outdoors, she rallied past the defending heptathlon champ in the final event for the heptathlon crown, becoming the first woman in NCAA Championships history to score more than 6,200 points in two different seasons. In March, Williams shined on the world stage as she placed sixth in the pentathlon at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon.
The CWSA, celebrating its 40th year, has honored the nation’s top NCAA women athletes recognizing superior athletic skills, leadership, academic excellence and eagerness to participate in community service. Since commencing its sponsorship in 1986, Honda has provided more than $3.0 million in institutional grants to the universities of the award winners and nominees to support women’s athletics programs at the institutions.