2021 Indoor Women’s Athletes Of The Year

Gudaf Tsegay’s World Record 1500 was the mark of the year and gained her World AOY status. (JEAN-PIERRE DURAND)

THE KEY TO WINNING a women’s AOY honor this year in any of our four categories was to be good in multiple events:

World Women: Gudaf Tsegay (Ethiopia)

Gudaf Tsegay’s campaign was brief but brilliant. She debuted on February 09 with the only WR of the year on the women’s side, a 3:53.09 in the 1500. Just 5 days later she ran the year’s fastest 800 (1:57.52) to move to No. 9 on the all-time list, and 10 days after that tacked on the year’s fastest 3000, an 8:22.65 that made her No. 2 ever.

Honorable mentions: Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh, still only 19, went undefeated in the high jump, and her world-leading 6-9 (2.06) makes her =No. 3 ever; Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas won both her races, moving to =No. 10 all-time in the 200 (22.40) and =No. 8 in the 400 (world-leading 50.21).

The 5 previous winners: ’20—Yulimar Rojas (Venezuela); ’19—Mariya Lasitskene (Russia); ’18—Lasitskene; ’17—Laura Muir (Great Britain); ’16—Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia).

U.S. Women: Athing Mu (Texas A&M)

Even though she didn’t win a major individual title, Athing Mu was all over the indoor stats. She was the world leader in the 600 (1:25.80) plus U.S. leader in the 400 (50.52) & 800 (1:58.40). The 600 wasn’t a PR, but she moved to No. 4 on the all-time U.S. 400 list and No. 2 in the 800. And to top it off, her 49.54 relay leg at the NCAA was the fastest in world history.

Honorable mentions: Elle Purrier set an American Record of 9:10.28 in the 2M (with a list-leading 8:36.41 en route in the 3000); Vashti Cunningham moved to =No. 3 on the all-time U.S. list with her indoor PR 6-6¾ (2.00).

The 5 previous winners: ’20—Ajee’ Wilson (adidas); ’19—Wilson; ’18—Keni Harrison (adidas); ’17—Gwen Berry (Nike); ’16—Jenn Suhr (adidas).

Collegiate Women: Tyra Gittens (Texas A&M)

Athing Mu may have been the best American of the indoor season, but she wasn’t quite the best on her own collegiate team, as Trinidadian junior Tyra Gittens earned that honor. Gittens had an amazing NCAA, setting a CR 4746 in the heptathlon, doubling back with a high jump win and also claiming 3rd in the long jump.

Honorable mentions to Mu and a trio of other CR setters: Kemba Nelson (Oregon) in the 60, Abby Steiner (Kentucky) a tie in the 200 and Tara Davis (Texas) in the long jump.

The 5 previous winners: ’20—Olivia Gruver (Washington); ’19—Lexi Jacobus (Arkansas); ’18—Keturah Orji (Georgia); ’17—Raven Saunders (Mississippi); ’16—Kendell Williams (Georgia).

High School Girls: Sophia Gorriaran (Brown, Providence, Rhode Island)

Doing well at multiple distances was the key here, with Sophia Gorriaran narrowly edging Sydney Thorvaldson (Rawlins, Wyoming) for the win. Gorriaran was the year’s fastest in the 500 (1:12.95) & 600 (1:27.02 for No. 2 all-time). She was also No. 2 in the 800 (2:02.44 for No. 4 ever, plus adding all-time performances 4, 9 & 10). Additionally, she was No. 2 in the 1500 (4:32.03) and No. 3 in the mile (4:47.21).

As for Thorvaldson, she churned out the yearly leaders in the mile (4:43.90), 3000 (9:09.70) and 2M (9:47.95 for the No. 2 performance ever). Honorable mention also to sprinter Shawnti Jackson (Wakefield, Raleigh, North Carolina) and sprinter/jumper Avery Lewis (Friends Central, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania).

The 5 previous winners: ’20—Athing Mu (Central, Trenton, New Jersey); ’19—Katelyn Tuohy (North Rockland, Thiells, New York); ’18—Tuohy; ’17—Sammy Watson (Rush-Henrietta, Henrietta, New York); ’16—Vashti Cunningham (Gorman, Las Vegas, Nevada). □