09 Dec 2021 | 15:07 | Track & Field
NEW ORLEANS—A record-setting total of 11 student-athletes from the women’s track & field team were named to the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic Team for the 2020-21 academic year in an announcement made by the organization last week. This is the most honorees Villanova has ever had for a single year on the All-Academic Team, which takes into account both academic achievement and success in athletic competition. In addition to the individual honors, the Wildcats were also named an All-Academic Team for the 14th consecutive year.
Villanova was represented among the All-Academic Athletes by thrower Taryn Ashby, sprinter Danielle Burns, high jumper Roschell Clayton, thrower Grayce French, sprinter/middle distance runner McKenna Keegan, distance runner Anna Helwigh, sprinter/middle distance runner Madison Martinez, multi-event athlete Liv Morgan, distance runner Lydia Olivere, sprinter Amari Onque-Shabazz and middle distance runner Brynne Sumner.
The criteria for being named to the Division I All-Academic Team by the USTFCCCA begins with having a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 or higher on a 4.0 scale, including the most recent grading period. A student-athlete must also have competed at least two semesters or three quarters at its nominating institution.
Athletic criteria for the All-Academic Team can be satisfied during the indoor and/or outdoor track & field seasons. For the indoor season, a student-athlete must have finished the season ranked in the top 96 nationally in any championship individual event or in the top 48 nationally in any championship relay event. For the outdoor season, a student-athlete must have participated in any round of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships (including preliminary rounds) or for multi-event athletes finish the season ranked in the top 48 in the East or the top 48 in the West.
Villanova had a successful spring on all fronts, with five student-athletes who set school records during the outdoor season among those named to the All-Academic Team. Ashby broke her own school record in the javelin and currently has a mark of 50.69 meters, while French broke the Wildcats records in both the shot put (14.95 meters) and the discus (52.35 meters) during the BIG EAST Championships. Olivere lowered the Villanova standard in the 3000 meter steeplechase on multiple occasions and owns the current record of 9:49.88. Morgan broke the Wildcats record in the heptathlon (1999-present) with a score of 5,149 points at the BIG EAST meet. Keegan ran the fastest collegiate season time in school history in the 800 meters (2:01.25) at the NCAA East Preliminary in late May.
Keegan advanced to the NCAA Championships both indoors and outdoors in the 800 meters and was named the Mid-Atlantic Region Women’s Track Athlete of the Year for both the indoor track & field and outdoor track & field seasons. Each of the 11 student-athletes recognized on the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team competed at the NCAA East Preliminary in Jacksonville, Fla. this spring. Burns qualified for the meet in the 400 meter hurdles for the second time in her career. Martinez and Sumner each ran in the heats of the 800 meters, Helwigh competed in the national quarterfinal round of the 3000 meter steeplechase and Clayton was a qualifier in the high jump. Burns, Martinez, Keegan and Onque-Shabazz also formed the Wildcats lineup for the 4×400 meter relay which qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary for the first time in 10 years.
Overall, there were more than 1,100 women who were named All-Academic Athletes in NCAA Division I Track & Field.