Director of Track and Field and Cross-Country Wayne Angel is serious about turning things around at Northern Colorado. This year’s elite recruiting class boasts three world ranked athletes as well as three nationally ranked athletes among the class of twelve. The signees include athletes from three foreign countries: South Africa, Bahamas and Tanzania, plus athletes from Colorado and California. Three members of the class will join the men’s team, while the remaining nine will join the women.
“We are thrilled and excited to welcome the newest additions to the UNC Bear family,” said Angel. “We have assembled some incredible talent here, more importantly, they are great students that will make UNC and the Greeley community at large very proud. This is arguably the greatest recruiting class in the history of UNC track and field. Kudo’s to my assistants, Leevan Sands and Stormie Sickler, they have done an awesome job. These student-athletes bring loads of potential that will immediately impact our program and lay the foundation for winning future Big Sky championships as well as representing UNC on a national and world stage”
Kayla Van Der Bergh, Elviano Johnson and Welre Olivier rank in the top 10 in the world for their respective events.
Kayla Van Der Bergh ranks fifth in the world 100-meter hurdles U20 with a time of 13.31. She is a two-time national champion winning the U18 100 hurdles in 2019 and U18 200 meters in 2018 for South Africa. At the 2018 Youth Olympics, she finished in fifth place in the 100 hurdles. She also holds the School’s Association for Sports & Athletics record for the 100 hurdles at 13.2 seconds.
Elviano Johnson has the need for speed. He is one of the fastest U20 sprinters in the world (10.28). He is currently ranked second in the 100 meters dash and eighth in the 200 meters (20.67). The speedster took second place in both the 100 and 200 at the South Africa National Championships in 2020. Johnson also ranks 26th in the world for the U20 400m.
The world’s best U19 triple jumper (15.80) is going to be a Bear! Welre Olivier joins the UNC family from Johannesburg, South Africa. The 2019 South African National champion for triple jump also turned in the second-best triple jumps for the U18 category in South Africa and New Zealand. Olivier owns the second-best triple jump of all-time in New Zealand.
The second-best triple jumper in the United States (15.21) decided to trade in the sandy beaches of California for the majestic mountains of Colorado for college. Namir Hemphill was the No. 2 ranked triple jumper in the US in 2020 and the top triple jumper in California. He ranks No. 34 in the U20 world rankings. He won the 2019 Arcadia Invitational triple jump championship and 2019 Mt. Sac Relays triple jump as well. The triple jumper also competes in the long jump, 60-meter dash, 300 hurdles and 400 dash.
Marione Fourie is a South African champion (13.76) and ASA Championship silver medalist that joins the UNC track team. The 100 hurdles runner took gold at the 2019 South African Championships and finished second as the ASA Championships the same season.
The best mid-distance junior runner in Tanzania is making her way to Greeley. Regina Mpigachai ranks as the top 800- and 1500-meters junior runner in Tanzania. Her top times for each event are 2:08.13 and 4:24.01, respectively.
Coach Angel and assistant coach Levan Sands used their Bahamas connections to land Węndira Moss and Cariesha Johnson onto the Northern Colorado track and field team. Moss competes in the 100 through 400 meters dash. She represented her country at the U18 World Junior Championships in Nairobi Kenya. Johnson competes in the 400 hurdles and 400 dash along with being on the 4×400 relay team.
Andrea Starks looks for a redo of her final season after COVID-19 whipped it out at the University of Nevada. The Wolfpack transfer competed at American River College in Sacramento, California prior to joining the team at Nevada. She won the CCCAA State title for the 100m hurdles and was a Cal Comm College State Champion in 2018. At American River College she competed in the 100m, 200m, 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles and high jump. Starks is joined on the UNC track and field team by fellow American River College graduate Ruby Ann Gregory. Gregory will compete in the 200 and 400 sprints.
Melodie Leroudier transfers to UNC from Cal Poly where she competed in cross country and track and field. While at Cal Poly she was a finalist in the mile at the 2018 and 2019 Big West Conference Championships. A graduate of Amador Valley High School she holds the program’s record for the mile.
Rounding out the class is local product Julia Brown. She is staying in Greeley after competing at Frontier Academy High School where she competed in the 800m, 1600m and 5000m.
The excellent recruiting class should come as no surprise after the success Coach Angel had at his previous stops at Tennessee Tech and Florida A&M.
While the head coach of the Golden Eagles women’s track and field team and the head men’s coach of the Rattlers Cross Country team, he led his former teams to three OVC and two MEAC conference titles as well as two runner-up finishes during his tenure in Cookeville and Tallahassee. The two-time Hall of fame and six-time Coach of the Year recipient is poised to make an enormous statement with the announcement of his most recent recruiting class.
This story originally ran on the UNC Bears athletics website (uncbears.com).