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Ole Miss’ Saunders Named National Athlete Of The Year

Photo courtesy of Josh McCoy/ Ole Miss Sports

After a truly spectacular close to her junior indoor season, Ole Miss thrower Raven Saunders has been named Women’s Indoor Co-National Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

She shared the award with Georgia jumper Keturah Orji (both were also finalists for the 2016 Bowerman Award, college track & field’s highest individual honor). Other national athlete of the year honors went to Tennessee’s Christian Coleman (men’s track), Florida’s KeAndre Bates (men’s field) and Oregon’s Hannah Cunliffe (women’s track).
Winners were voted on by member coaches following the conclusion of the 2017 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, which were held this past weekend in College Station, Texas.
Saunders re-wrote her own submission in the collegiate record books last weekend, shattering her old NCAA indoor shot put record with a mammoth throw of 19.56m/64-2.25 on her final attempt to claim her fourth career national title. She now ranks No. 1 in the world this year and No. 4 all-time among U.S. women indoors. She bested her previous record of 19.23m/63-1.25 that she set at the 2016 Iowa State Classic.
The Charleston, South Carolina, native achieved the most impressive shot put series in NCAA history with only one of her six attempts landing under 18 meters (17.98) and two throws of 19+, including the collegiate record and a lob of 19.20m/63-0 for good measure. She now boasts six of the top nine women’s shot put marks in NCAA indoor history.
“I tell everybody, I don’t know what her ceiling is,” said Rebel head coach Connie Price-Smith after Saunders’ record shot put in College Station. “So it’s fun every time she exceeds her best mark, because it just proves that I really don’t know where it’s going to stop. It’s really special.”
Saunders also finished seventh in the weight throw (20.81m/68-3.25) to earn first team All-America honors in both throwing events.
Two weeks earlier, she won the SEC title in the shot put with a meet-record throw of 19.07m/62-6. Saunders was undefeated on the year in the shot put and set a meet record in six of seven competitions.
This is the second time an Ole Miss athlete has been named a USTFCCCA national athlete of the year. In 2008, Brittney Reese was voted Women’s Outdoor National Field Athlete of the Year.
For more information on Ole Miss Track & Field, follow the Rebels on Twitter (@OleMissTrack), Facebook and Instagram.

Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports
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