Four Schools Recognized On Track And Field Honors Roll
2017 Track and Field Awards Release
Big West champions Cal State Fullerton and CSUN joined Long Beach State and UC Davis to comprise the 2017 Big West Track and Field awards, announced today following a vote of the conference’s nine head coaches.
Overall the Beach locked up three of the eight premier awards. Kemonie Briggs earned Men’s Field Athlete of the Year, Jason Smith nabbed Men’s Freshman of the Year and Riley Cooks scooped up her second straight Women’s Field Athlete of the Year honor. The Titans captured two awards with Darion Zimmerman named the Men’s Track Athlete of the Year and John Elders the Men’s Coach of the Year. CSUN also racked up a pair of top honors as Women’s Track Athlete of the Year went to Lexis Lambert, with Avery Anderson receiving Women’s Coach of the Year kudos. Kierra Davis of UC Davis earned Women’s Freshman of the Year honors.
Darion Zimmerman became the first Cal State Fullerton individual to be honored as the Men’s Track Athlete of the Year. A senior from Oxnard, Calif., Zimmerman finished first in the 200-meters and 400-meters at the Big West Championships, the first to do so since Boise State’s Corey Nelson in 1999. Zimmerman won the 200 in 21.13 seconds, joining current assistant coach Marques Barosso (2006) as the only two Titans to achieve gold in that event. Zimmerman also repeated as the 400 champion, bettering his 2016 winning time (47.46) with a school record 46.86 performance that ranks No. 2 in the Big West this year. A two-time Men’s Track Athlete of the Week honoree, Zimmerman also anchored the 4x100 meter relay team’s first place effort in a conference-best 40.18 seconds, and contributed to a second place finish in the 4x400 relay. Zimmerman also anchored the 4x400 relay in the final race of the conference meet, helping chip five seconds off their previous season-best time. The 3:11.42 finish cemented CSF’s first men’s title in school history.
Lexis Lambert (Lake View Terrace, Calif./Taft HS) earned CSUN’s first Women’s Track Athlete of the Year designation since 2008 when Sherrina Lofton nabbed the honor. A redshirt in 2016, Lambert played a critical role in lifting the Matadors to the Big West women’s team title last weekend at Titan Track Complex. She won both the 200-meters and 400-meters events – the first to accomplish that double since Cal State Fullerton’s Ciara Short in 2010 and 2011. Lambert’s 52.36 in the 400 broke the school record and exceeded the second-fastest time in the conference by more than a second and a half. It also placed her at No. 18 on the national leaderboard. Lambert, the conference champion in the 200 at 23.42 seconds, ran her fastest time of the year (23.27) on Apr. 14 at the Texas Invitational. Lambert also ran the anchor leg of the 4x400 winning relay team (3:39.45), a victory that clinched the conference championship when her final push allowed the Matadors to win by nine-tenths of a second.
Kemonie Briggs built upon his 2016 Men’s Freshman of the Year selection as the Men’s Field Athlete of the Year. The Beach has piled up seven of the 14 awards since 2003, and Briggs represents the third straight LBSU honoree. A Long Beach native, Briggs is the highest nationally and regionally ranked male athlete from the Big West in 2017. He ranks No. 5 in the West Region and No. 8 in the NCAA in the long jump with a top mark of 26-02.75 (+2.5), achieved in the Mar. 4 season opener at the LBSU vs. UCLA Dual. That stood up as the national leading mark through March. He won back-to-back long jump competitions – LBSU vs. UCLA Dual and USC Trojan Invite – posting a school record 25-10.75 at the latter meet. Briggs then broke his own school benchmark on Apr. 14 when he cleared 26 feet at the Beach Invitational. The sophomore maintained his level of consistency all the way through the Big West Championship when he became a two-time long jump champion with a winning mark of 25-08.25. His top mark exceeds all conference jumpers by 14.75 inches at the close of the regular season. He claimed Athlete of the Meet honors after finishing second in the 400-meters (47.16), third in the 200-meters (21.37), third in the 4x400 relay (3:11.91) and fourth in the 4x100 relay (41.19) in addition to his long jump title.
Riley Cooks (Coarsegold, Calif./Cuesta College) has developed into the conference’s most versatile female standout in her senior year, becoming the first in Big West history to claim back-to-back Field Athlete of the Year awards. She won a second straight gold in the heptathlon at the Big West Championship, the first to accomplish that feat since Janel Chandler of Nevada in 1997 and 1998. Cooks scored a Long Beach State school record 5,671 points that came within 38 points of heptathlon Olympian Barbara Nwaba’s meet record, set in 2012. The performance moved her to No. 12 nationally and qualified her for the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. In winning the conference heptathlon, she captured first place in the long jump with a lifetime best 20-01 (6.12m). She returned the following weekend to win the individual long jump title in 19 feet, 9.5 inches (6.03m). Cooks scored additional points for the Beach in the javelin (7th place), 100-meter hurdles (5th) and 4x100 relay (4th), compiling 26 individual points. The all-around performance earned Cooks recognition as the Athlete of the Meet for the second straight year.
Long Beach State claimed its third major award of 2017 with the selection of Jason Smith (San Bruno, Calif./Archbishop Riordan HS) as the Men’s Freshman of the Year. He is the fifth Beach athlete to be honored, and the fourth in the six years. He joins Alex Goldberg (2007), Jahmani Lockett (2012-co), Willie Alexander (2013) and Kemonie Briggs (2016) on the prestigious list. Smith’s career-best long jump effort of 25-0 (7.62m) at the adidas/Steve Scott Invitational on Apr. 28 made him the highest nationally and regionally ranked male freshman in the Big West, as he currently sits No. 28 in the West and No. 57 in the NCAA, respectively. As a qualifier for the NCAA West Preliminary in Austin, Texas, Smith ranks among the top 10 freshmen long jumpers in Division I. He finished second to Briggs at the Big West Championship with a mark of 24-06.25. Smith won the long jump in the three meets did not compete – the Texas State Bobcat Invitational, Big West Challenge and adidas/Steve Scott Invitational. He also has begun to branch out into other events, notably the triple jump and high jump, posting best marks of 49-02.50 and 6-09.50, respectively. Smith also anchored the Beach 4x400 relay team that finished third at the conference meet in 3:11.91.
UC Davis produced the second female Freshman of the Year in school history as Kierra Davis (Upland, Calif./Upland HS) joined teammate Holly Tokar (2013) on the honor roll. Davis was the fastest female freshman sprinter in the Big West this season. She ranked fifth overall in the 200-meters, posting the third-fastest time (23.84) in school history at the UNLV Invitational on Mar. 16. Her season-best of 11.71 seconds in the 100-meters placed her at No. 4 on the Aggie all-time performers list. She achieved that time at the Big West Championships to finish in fourth place. Davis also carried the baton on the winning Aggie 4x100 relay, which clocked a season-best 44.81, good for No. 2 all-time in school history. The Aggies won the 4x100 for the first time at the Big West meet.
John Elders accomplished two meaningful firsts this season at Cal State Fullerton. He earned his first Men’s Coach of the Year award while leading the Titans to their inaugural Big West men’s title. The longest-tenured Titan head coach in his 29th year, Elders guided the Titans to the championship on their home track with 133 points. The meet’s outcome came down to the final race as the 4x400 relay team improved by five seconds on its season best to finish second in 3:11.42. CSF’s previous best overall team finish at the Big West Championship was third in 2006. In front of a FOX Sports Prime Ticket audience, Elders witnessed his troops dominate in the sprints, winning four races, including Darion Zimmerman in the 200 and 400, Diego Courbis in the 400-meter hurdles, and the 4x100 relay team.
Avery Anderson claimed his second Women’s Coach of the Year accolade as the architect behind CSUN’s second Big West title in the last three years. He became the first head coach in conference history to take a program from last place to first place in a two-year span. After redshirting several key athletes in 2016, the Matadors finished in ninth place at the Big West meet, but they returned this season to help bring a program record 10th title back to campus. Anderson, in his seventh season at the CSUN helm, has been head coach for three of those championships – 2011, 2015 and 2017. The Matadors scored 144 points, squeezing past UC Davis by 1.3 points for the second-smallest margin of victory in the 34-year history of the meet. CSUN clinched the title with a win in the last event of the day, the 4x400 relay, nipping UC Davis by 0.9 seconds at the finish line. Two of Anderson’s senior redshirts – Lexis Lambert and Marie Veale – contributed to that 4x400 relay win with Lambert running the anchor leg. Lambert and Veale combined for three more event victories – the 100, 200 and 400. A third redshirt senior, Monique Griffiths, also broke the Big West meet and overall record in the hammer with a mammoth throw of 215-11.
The honorees turn their attention next to the NCAA West Preliminary regional meet May 25-27 at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. The meet will feature the top-48 student-athletes in each event west of the Mississippi River.
2017 BIG WEST TRACK & FIELD AWARDS
MEN’S TRACK ATHLETE OF THE YEAR WOMEN’S TRACK ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Darion Zimmerman, Cal State Fullerton Lexis Lambert, CSUN
MEN’S FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR WOMEN’S FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Kemonie Briggs, Long Beach State Riley Cooks, Long Beach State
MEN’S FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR WOMEN’S FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Jason Smith, Long Beach State Kierra Davis, UC Davis
MEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR WOMEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR
John Elders, Cal State Fullerton Avery Anderson, CSUN