Kithuka’s Domination & Bates’ Thrilling Win at Pre-Nats Headline National Athletes of the Week

By Kyle Terwillegar, USTFCCCA

October 21, 2013   

NEW ORLEANS – From runaway victories to come-from-behind thrillers and everything in between at significant meets around the country, National Athletes of the Week came in all varieties this week.

The Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind., produced the Division I men’s and women’s honorees in very different fashion. Defending NCAA men’s cross country champion Kennedy Kithuka obliterated a field including the 2012 Pre-Nationals champion by more than half a minute to take his second men’s honor of the season.

In contrast, Boise State’s Emma Bates ran down a handful of other potential All-Americans in the final kilometer of her race to take the women’s award.

Many Division II squads were off this weekend ahead of the imminent conference championships, but there were still a number of standout performances. Alex Cushman of Indianapolis earned the men’s honor with a win at the Wilmington College #JennaStrong Fall Classic, named in honor of the late Wilmington runner Jenna Parlette who passed away earlier this season after collapsing during a race she was leading.

Vicki Davis of Bloomsburg earned the DII women’s honor following an individual title at the Penn State National Invitational over a host of DI programs.

National Athlete of the Week honors is nothing new for North Central (Ill.)’s John Crain, who garnered his third DIII men’s award of the season after an individual title at the UW-Oshkosh Brooks Invitational in a race featuring eight other ranked teams.

Luther’s Tricia Serres of Luther earned the women’s DIII honor with her fourth win of the season against a tough field at the UW-La Crosse Tori Neubauer Invitational.

THE HONOREES

Division I Men

Kennedy Kithuka

Kennedy Kithuka, Texas Tech
Senior | Thika, Kenya
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

Kithuka told Flotrack prior to the race that breaking the 8K course record at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course wasn’t his goal heading into the Pre-National Invitational, but he nearly did so anyway with a dominating 22:52.78 win over an impressive field in the Blue race. The defending NCAA champion finished 33 seconds clear of Anthony Rotich of UTEP, who himself was the fourth-place NCAA finisher in 2012 and the defending Pre-Nationals champion. He led by a second over Rotich after two kilometers of the race, but stretched that to seven seconds by three kilometers and 24 seconds by the 5K mark.  The win was his fifth of the season and the 12th in an unbeaten streak dating back to his first race for Texas Tech last season.

WATCH: Full Men’s Blue 8K Race | Kennedy Kithuka Inverview with Flotrack

Also considered:
Kemoy Campbell, Arkansas

 

Division I Women

Emma Bates

Emma Bates, Boise State
Junior | Elk River, Minn.
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

In a day filled with great races, Bates provided cross country fans the best finish with her come-from-behind victory at the Pre-National Invitational 6K Blue race, taking the crown in  by less than two seconds in 20:09.1. After taking a fractions-of-a-second lead over a chase pack of 20 runners that were separated by a mere three seconds, Bates fell back to about third with less than a half mile to go behind race leader Hannah Walker of Florida State. All-American Aisling Cuffe of Stanford chased down Walker with about 400 meters to go, but it was Bates who charged to take the lead and the win from Cuffe just moments later within the final 100 meters.

WATCH: Full Women’s Blue 6K Race | Emma Bates Interview with Flotrack

Also considered:
Abbey D’Agostino, Dartmouth

 

Division II Men

Alex Cushman

Alex Cushman, Indianapolis
Junior | Ft. Wayne, Ind.
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

Cushman was the individual champion at the Wilmington #JennaStrong Fall Classic, crossing the line in the 8K race in 24:58.69. He took the individual title by nearly five seconds over Division I Wright State’s Dan Shafer and a field of other Division I, II, III and NAIA runners. This title follows up a victory in the Small State Indiana Intercollegiate race and top non-Division I honors at the UW-Parkside Midwest Open earlier this season.

Also considered:
Alex Monroe, Lock Haven

 

Division II Women

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis, Bloomsburg
Graduate student | New Ringgold, Pa.
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

Davis took the title over a host of Division I schools at this past weekend’s Penn State National Invitational, winning the 6K race in 21:16. She finished approximately six seconds ahead of the next-fastest finisher, Kelly Williams of Division I West Virginia, and nearly 40 seconds ahead of the next Division II runner. Behind her effort, Bloomsburg finished fifth out of 10 mostly-Division I schools. The win is her third of the season, including a title at the Kutztown Division II & III challenge earlier this season.

Also considered:
Erika Wilson, Southern Indiana

 

Division III Men

John Crain

John Crain, North Central (Ill.)
Senior | Dunlap, Ill.
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

Crain is the National Athlete of the Week for the third time this season, with this latest honor coming after an impressive 8K win at the UW-Oshkosh Invitational in a personal-best 24:20.74. In leading his No. 1 defending champion North Central (Ill.) squad to the resounding team victory, Crain defeated former National Athlete of the Week Drew Padgett by seven seconds and more than 560 runners that included entrants from eight other ranked teams.

Also considered:
Chris Stadler, Haverford
Bobby Over, Allegheny
Austin O’Brien, Central (Iowa)
Coby Horowitz, Bowdoin
Cody Amengual, SUNY Cortland

 

Division III Women

Tricia Serres

Tricia Serres, Luther
Sophomore | Platteville, Wis.
School Bio | TFRRS Profile

Serres claimed the 6K title at the UW-La Crosse Tori Neubauer Invitational in 21:19.34 to win her fourth consecutive race this season, and her third in the past three weeks. Her winning effort at UW-La Crosse was more than 13 seconds faster than that of standout Sammi Bruett of No. 2 Wartburg and another four seconds faster than former National Athlete of the Week Noelle Olson of St.  Olaf.

Also considered:
Chelsea Johnson, St. Scholastica
Amy Regan, Stevens Institute
Emily Cousens, NYU
Kelsey Patrick, Lebanon Valley
Melissa Skiba, Cal Lutheran

 

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.