One of Three Women’s Finalists for Top Award in College Track & Field
NEW ORLEANS – The names of past Bowerman Award finalists represent the most elite recent track & field athletes in not only U.S. colleges, but the world. Ole Miss sophomore Raven Saunders can now count herself among that select company.
On Thursday, Saunders was selected as one of three women’s finalists for the Bowerman Award by the Bowerman Advisory Board. The iconic 35-pound trophy named after legendary Oregon coach Bill Bowerman has been presented by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) to the top man and woman in college track & field each year since 2009.
Saunders, who recently won the NCAA outdoor shot put crown with a collegiate-record throw of 19.33 meters (63-5), is joined by Texas sprinter Courtney Okolo and Georgia jumper Keturah Orji as women’s finalists. The three men’s finalists will be announcedFriday.
A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Saunders has set the throwing world on fire in her first year at Ole Miss after transferring from Southern Illinois University following her freshman season. Here is a list of a few of her major achievements in 2016:
- Broke a 33-year-old collegiate record with her NCAA outdoor shot put title (19.33m/63-5)
- First woman in NCAA history to surpass 19 meters in the outdoor shot put
- Defeated the NCAA outdoor runner-up by 4 feet, 3.75 inches
- Also broke the indoor collegiate shot put record with her mark of 19.23m/63-1.25
- Won SEC indoor and outdoor shot put titles, breaking the meet record outdoors (18.58m/60-11.5)
- Claimed SEC Commissioner’s Trophy for most points scored at the league outdoor meet (21 points – 1st shot, 2nd discus, 6th hammer)
- Ranks No. 4 in the world this year and No. 7 in U.S. history in the women’s shot put
- Has finished first in 15 of 17 shot put competitions in 2016
- Indoor and outdoor season combined, broke a meet record 10 times, facility record seven times, school record six times, SEC record five times and NCAA record twice in the shot put
- Produced the 10 farthest shot puts by an NCAA woman in 2016
- Broke Ole Miss records in the indoor shot, outdoor shot, discus, weight throw, and No. 2 in the hammer throw
- First team USTFCCCA All-American outdoor, second team indoor
- USTFCCCA South Region Women’s Indoor Field Athlete of the Year
- Two-time National Athlete of the Week (first in Ole Miss history)
- Five-time SEC Athlete of the Week
- First Ole Miss athlete, male or female, to win an SEC indoor or outdoor shot put title
- First Ole Miss athlete, male or female, to be named an indoor All-American in the shot put
- First Ole Miss woman to be named an outdoor All-American in the shot put
Saunders is the first Ole Miss athlete to be named a Bowerman Award finalist. Two-time NCAA pole vault champion Sam Kendricks was a men’s semifinalist in 2013.
Her season isn’t over yet, either. Saunders will compete for Ole Miss at the U.S. Olympic Trials (July 1-10, Eugene, Oregon) and has been selected to represent Team USA for the NACAC U-23 Championships (July 15-17, San Salvador, El Savador).
Okolo dominated the NCAA Championships 400 meters title with a 50.36 for the 10th-fastest time in collegiate history. She came back later that day to rally the Longhorns 4×400 relay to a national title as she overtook two teams on the final straightaway. Her NCAA Championships accomplishments came after she broke the collegiate record earlier this season with a 49.71 run – the first sub-50 clocking in collegiate history.
Orji not only twice broke the collegiate triple jump record this season, but she also topped the American Record in the event. At the NCAA Championships, she leaped 14.53 meters (47-8) for the all-time college and U.S. records, besting her own college record of 14.29 meters (46-10.75) set two weeks prior at the NCAA East Prelims. All 11 of her measured attempts this season surpassed the No. 2 collegian, and she surpassed 14 meters with a legal wind six times – no other collegian has done that more than four times in an NCAA career.
Last week, Saunders, Okolo, Orji and Georgia heptathlete Kendell Williams were recognized as the four nominees for the Honda Sport Award for track & field, which also honors the top collegiate female in the sport.
ABOUT THE BOWERMAN
The Bowerman, which debuted in 2009, is presented annually by the USTFCCCA to the most outstanding male and female collegiate track & field athletes in the nation.
Oregon’s Jenna Prandini and Florida’s Marquis Dendy are the reigning winners of The Bowerman, which is named for legendary Oregon track & field and cross country coach Bill Bowerman.
Past winners include Olympic gold medalist, four-time World Champion and decathlon world-record holder Ashton Eaton (2010), 10,000-meter Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp (2009), 2011 IAAF World Champion at 1500 meters Jenny Simpson (2009), 2013 100-meter hurdles World Champion Brianna Rollins (2013) as well as 2012 Olympic high jump bronze medalist and 2015 World Champion Derek Drouin (2013).
The Bowerman Award will be handed out in December during the annual USTFCCCA Convention. This year’s gathering will take place in Orlando, Florida at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes Resort and Spa.