The State of Kentucky & Underdogs Dominate National Athlete of the Week Selections
NEW ORLEANS – The Bluegrass State and "David versus Goliath"-type performances emerged as themes for the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Athlete of the Week honorees in week three of the cross country season.
Senior Soufiane Bouchikhi of No. 11 Eastern Kentucky made the most of his 2013 debut, earning Division I Men’s National Athlete of the Week honors with a strong 8K win over runners from No. 1 Oklahoma State at the Kentucky Bluegrass Invitational.
Women’s honors in Division I went to Cally Macumber of Kentucky, who at the same meet claimed the women’s 5K event by more than 26 seconds.
Johnnie Guy of No. 10 Southern Indiana earned the men’s honor in Division II this week after taking down an NCAA Division I Outdoor 5000 meters All-American to win the Michigan State Spartan Invitational, while Jennifer Agnew of U-Mary showed she is back to her 2011 XC All-American form after missing the 2012 cross country season with a dominant 5K win at the Randy Smith Invitational.
John Crain of No. 1 North Central (Ill.) retains his crown as reigning Division III men’s National Athlete of the Week after a scorching 8K individual runner-up finish at the Illinois State University Cross Country Invitational that saw the Cardinals dismantle a group of Division I teams. Farther north along the shore of Lake Michigan, Cassie Vince of No. 11 Calvin led the Knights to a decisive team victory at their home meet.
The NAIA is scheduled to announce its first cross country athletes of the week later this week on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Division I Men
Defending OVC and Southeast Region champion Bouchikhi and his No. 11 Eastern Kentucky Colonels wasted no time making an impression on the national landscape, as the Belgian senior opened the season with a victory in the 8K Kentucky Bluegrass Invitational in 23:35.60 to spearhead the team victory. Clocking an average mile split of 4:44, Bouchikhi defeated runner-up Tyler Byrne of Louisville by 12 seconds and topped a field that included runners from No. 1 Oklahoma State and regional rivals Louisville and Kentucky. As a unit, the Colonels scored 34 points to runner-up Oklahoma State’s 47.
Division I Women
After a sluggish start to the season at the Belmont Opener two weekends ago, defending SEC and Southeast Region champion Macumber came back in a big way this past weekend with a commanding victory on her home course, winning the 5K Kentucky Bluegrass Opener in 16:32.10 by a margin of 26 seconds. Cruising through the five-kilometer course at an average mile pace of 5:19, Macumber outpaced a field that included No. 21 Oklahoma State and 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor 5000 meter All-American Ann Eason of Eastern Kentucky, who finished a distant second to the victorious Wildcat.
Division II Men
Guy made a pair of statements in breaking the tape at the 8K Michigan State Spartan Invitational this past weekend, as the sophomore Screaming Eagle not only defeated all 27 Division I runners — including from No. 30 Michigan State — but he also took down runners from three other top-25 Division II squads from the Midwest Region. His 24:09 finish over the 8K course edged the 24:10 finish by top Michigan State finisher Caleb Rhynard, an All-American on the outdoor track at 5000 meters in 2013. Clipping along at an average 4:52 pace over the course of the race, his time over eight kilometers is the third-fastest in school history.
Division II Women
After missing the 2012 cross country season, the 2011 All-American Agnew is back at U-Mary for one final campaign, and if her debut is any indication, she is on pace to reclaim her spot among the Division’s best runners. The senior made quick work of the field at the 5K MSU-Moorhead Randy Smith Invitational, winning by 50 seconds in a time of 17:12. Her 5:32 average mile pace propelled her to the individual win and paced her team to a sound victory in the team race with a tidy 23 points to MSU-Moorhead’s 81.
Division III Men
After earning National Athlete of the Week plaudits just one week ago, Crain is back among the honorees this weekend after a performance that more impressive on every level. With a runner-up finish in 24:22.13 over 8K at the Illinois State Invitational, Crain led the No. 1 Cardinals to a resounding team victory over not one, not two, but five Division I schools. Though he couldn’t outpace Illinois State’s Ryan Rutherford at the line and was edged out by .17 of a second, Crain still blazed through the course at 4:54-per-mile pace and pulled along four teammates who finished in a pack approximately 20 second back to put five in the top ten.
Division III Women
Cassie Vince, Calvin
Just a freshman in her second collegiate race and her second cross country season regardless of level, Vince was the class of a field at her home Calvin Knights Invitational that included a top-35 team in Case Western and a top-25 NAIA program in No. 9 St. Francis (Ill.). She completed the 5K course in 17:40.77, more than 13 seconds ahead of the next-fastest finisher. Behind Vince’s average per-mile pace of 5:41, No. 11 Calvin easily triumphed over St. Francis and Case Western in the team race by 61 points. The win is Vince’s second in as many weekends.
ABOUT THE AWARD
Awarded to six collegiate track and field and cross country athletes (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions) each Monday by the USTFCCCA office beginning with the 2013 indoor season, the National Athlete of the Week Award will spotlight exceptional performances by student-athletes from around the nation.
Nominations are open to the public. Coaches and sports information directors are encouraged to nominate their student-athletes; as are student-athletes, their families and friends, and fans of their programs.
The award seeks to highlight not only the very best times, marks and scores on a week-to-week basis, but also performances that were significant on the national landscape and/or the latest in a series of strong outings. Quality of competition, suspenseful finishes and other factors will also play a role in the decision.
Nominations should provide qualitative detail to explain the noteworthiness of the student-athlete’s performance. The manner in which his or her event(s) was won or nearly won; any records (school, conference, collegiate, etc.) broken as a result; the national significance of the time, mark or score; and the credentials of the competition are all pertinent details for quality nominations.
Photos, videos and interviews are also encouraged.
Nominations, which can be competed here, are due each Monday by 12 p.m. EST, and winners will be announced by 4 p.m. EST.