ELMHURST, Ill. – The Summit League announced its 2018 Outdoor Track & Field Athletes of the Year Wednesday afternoon, with three South Dakota Coyotes and a Bison from North Dakota State earning recognition for their outstanding performances this season.
Chris Nilsen and Alyssa Olin were named the men's and women's field athletes of the year, while Nilsen's teammates Gawain Williams and Shanice Cannigan took home the men's and women's track athlete of the year awards. All honorees were nominated and voted on by the league's head coaches.
This is the second time in as many seasons Nilsen is the league's outdoor field athlete of the year, with the pole vaulter coming off an incredible sophomore campaign. The native of Kansas City, Mo., closed out the regular season clearing a lifetime-best height of 19' 2.75" (5.86m) at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays to further solidify his stance at the top of the 2018 NCAA performance list. With that mark, Nilsen also jumped to No. 4 in the world and No. 4 on the NCAA's all-time performance list.
The 2018 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Midwest Field Athlete of the Year and Bowerman semifinalist won the league title in the pole vault at outdoor championships before moving on to secure his second national title at NCAA Championships. With his victory in Eugene, Ore., Nilsen became the third track & field competitor in Summit League history to win two career national titles.
Joining Nilsen at outdoor NCAAs this season was NDSU's Olin, who became a first-team All-American for the first time in her Bison career with a fifth-place finish in the women's javelin. Olin opened her 2018 outdoor season with a personal-best heave at the Baldy Castillo Invitational, busting out a 191' 6" (58.36m) throw that ranked No. 2 on the NCAA performance list this year and No. 3 among American women—professionals included. The senior from Mott, N.D., also emerged with her second-straight Summit League title in the javelin, besting second place by over 20 feet.
Olin is the first female athlete from NDSU to be named the league's field athlete of the year since Whitney Carlson in 2011.
On the track, fellow Coyotes Williams and Cannigan certainly had memorable seasons as well. For Williams, the senior from Hanover, Jamaica, became the first competitor in track & field history to win four-consecutive Summit League titles in the 100-meter dash, racing for a first-place finish this year with a personal-best 10.26 time. Williams also became only the fourth Summit Leaguer to win four league championships in any event category.
Additionally, Williams locked up another 10 points at the league championships with a second-place finish in the 200m and anchoring a runner-up performance for USD in the 4x100m relay. The short sprinter went onto compete at NCAA West Prelims in Sacramento, qualifying for both the 100m and 200m events.
Cannigan also qualified for the preliminary round in California, but not before she completely dominated the rest of the competition at The Summit League Outdoor Championships just weeks earlier. The senior from Lucea, Jamaica, was named the championship's Most Outstanding Performer after scoring the most points (27.5) of any male or female athlete at the meet. Cannigan secured gold in the 100m hurdles for the third-straight season, won the 400mH race, podiumed as a member of the third-place 4x4 squad and racked up five more points in the long and high jump events. As mentioned above, Cannigan advanced to NCAA West Prelims in the 100mH event category as well.
Cannigan becomes the fourth female competitor in league history to be voted both the indoor and outdoor field AOTY in the same calendar year.