Top-5 Athletes of February

Top-5 Athletes of February

By Tom Burton

5. Kelly Anderson, junior women’s golfer

Anderson gets a nod for the second time in the top-5 athletes as she is gradually establishing herself as the leader and top player on the women’s golf team. The team opened up its spring portion of the season Feb. 5, and Anderson has been a consistent presence.

Anderson took third place overall at the Battle at Boulder Creek Feb. 13 where she shot a 71 and a 74 in the final two rounds of play. Anderson paced the Huskies’ runner-up finish among nine teams in the field.

“She is playing some good golf right now, and we know she will continue to improve this spring,” Head Coach Kim Kester said.

Anderson averaged a solid 76.1 in 2016-17 and is averaging just over 75.4 in stroke play events this season. She has only shot over 80 in one round this season.

Anderson notched a top-15 finish at the Rio Verde Collegiate Invitational Sunday, highlighted by a second round score of 73 Sunday.

4. Kristopher Ortega, redshirt freshman men’s tennis player

Ortega leads an overlooked men’s tennis team, which might be the best team of the school in 2018 so far.

In his first season with the team, Ortega has eight wins and has moved up to the No. 1 spot in singles after starting the season playing at No. 4.

Ortega has not been able to find consistency in doubles play but has established himself as one of the better singles players and is showing future promise for this team going forward.

“We’ve got really good potential this year,” Ortega said. “I think we just need to play like we practice, and I think we will be good.”

With eight matches to go before the Mid-American Conference Championships, Ortega said he hopes to continue leading the men’s tennis team.

3. Ashley Potts, senior gymnast

Potts makes the cut for top 5 athletes for the second consecutive month as her recent performances make it an easy decision.

Potts stuck a score of 9.95 on the uneven bars in Sunday’s 195.375-195.200 home win over Ball State. This feat tied a school record for NIU gymnastics.

The captain reflected on her historic achievement and said she is excited to see what the team can showcase in the remainder of the season.

“I finally stuck my landing, which is something I’ve been working on,” Potts said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything different. We’re just gaining more confidence, and it’s showing when we compete.”

Potts said the team’s current record of 6-9 is not indicative of the potential the team has to have success in future matches.

She will play in her final home meet 2 p.m. Sunday in a match against Western Michigan on senior day. Potts is likely to go down as one of the best gymnasts to come through NIU.

2. Courtney Woods, women’s basketball junior guard

The women’s basketball team is back on track in February, and a big part of its success has been because of four-time MAC player of the week Courtney Woods.

The Huskies only had two wins in January but have flipped the script ,and going 4-2 in February after dealing with injuries to the roster.

The MAC Player of the Year candidate is averaging 21.7 points a game this season and averaged 23 points in February.

Woods dueled with her, arguably, biggest competition for MAC Player of the Year honors in Central Michigan forward Tinara Moore in the Huskies’ 91-77 loss Feb. 21 to the Chippewas. However, Moore had the upper hand in the game, finishing with 36 points and 12 rebounds, compared to 30 points, six assists and six rebounds from Woods.

“It’s not like she hasn’t shown the ability to score on a night-to-night basis,” said Head Coach Lisa Carlsen. “She is really confident on the offensive end, and her teammates understand that we need the ball in her hands.”

Woods is ranked No. 9 in the nation in scoring, according to ESPN. She said she looks to continue leading the women’s basketball team to a deep playoff run.

1. Jehvania Whyte, track and field junior jumper

Jehvania Whyte has simply been a force to be reckoned with this season, as her only competition has become her previously set record.

Whyte won the triple jump Sunday at the MAC Indoor Championships with a jump of 13.13 meters, setting her own personal and school record for the fifth time this season, while also breaking the MAC Championship record.

“We have some field athletes who have been performing out of this world,” Head Coach Connie Teaberry said. “She just steps up to the plate and has a lot more in her as well.”

The Huskies finished seventh in the event, but Whyte has been a consistent front-runner in her events since the season began.

Whyte will shift her attention to the outdoor season as the team will take on the University of Texas-Arlington Broncos March 24 in Arlington.