Big Races at Roy Griak & Purple Valley Produce Multiple College XC National Athletes of the Week

Big Races at Roy Griak & Purple Valley Produce Multiple College XC National Athletes of the Week

NEW ORLEANS—All six of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Athletes of the Week come from just three meets, with the Roy Griak Invitational providing fully half of the national slate and the Purple Valley Classic at Williams giving us both of our Division III honorees.

Nate Jewkes of Southern Utah (Division I men), Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State (Division I women) and Samantha Rivard of Minnesota Duluth (Division II women) all added National Athlete of the Week honors to go along with their Griak titles from Saturday, while David Chelimo of Colby (Division III men) and Sarah Quinn of MIT (Division III women) earned the national honor following Williams Purple Valley Classic wins — both of which led to team upsets.

Valentin Pepiot of Academy of Art was the top non-Division I man at the Stanford Invite to headline the Division II men this week.

National Athlete of the Week is an award selected and presented by the USTFCCCA Communications Staff at the beginning of each week to six collegiate cross country athletes (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions).

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.

DIVISION I MEN – Nate Jewkes, Southern Utah

Senior | South Jordan, Utah

Perhaps the most dramatic action of the Division I cross country season so far came Saturday in Minnesota, where Nate Jewkes and Southern Utah won surprising team and individual titles and caused the track internet to break its personal record for the most uses of “unheralded.”

Jewkes, the Division I National Athlete of the Week, wildly outkicked Texas’s Craig Lutz and Michigan State’s Caleb Rhynard to win Griak by 1.8 seconds in 24:45.4 on a hot and humit day to clinch SUU’s four-point team title.  This was the senior’s first cross country victory running for Southern Utah, though he did win a race running unattached last fall.  He also 11th at NCAAs in the 10k in 2013; the Utah native broke it down with Flotrack after the race. Next up for Jewkes and the Thunderbirds is the Notre Dame meet on Friday afternoon.

DIVISION I WOMEN – Shelby Houlihan, Arizona State

Senior | Sioux City, Iowa

With three 2014 NCAA track national champions (and the top three finishers from June’s steeple final), two 2014 USTFCCCA National Athletes of the Week, and a recently minted high school national record holder, Saturday’s Roy Griak Invitational was unquestionably the best women’s field of the young season. Arizona State’s Shelby Houlihan is the National Athlete of the Week for convincingly beating runner-up Rachel Johnson of Baylor, 2013 NCAA runner-up/outdoor 10,000 meters national champ Emma Bates of Boise State, and the rest of the loaded field on Saturday. She hung with the lead pack until making a decisive move in the closing kilometer to win by nearly seven seconds in 20:34.5.

After winning her second straight Griak, the Sun Devil willingly put on a target on her back, reiterating that her goal is to get a cross country individual title to pair with her 1500 crown. Next up on the ASU schedule is the Thunderbird Classic in Mesa, Arizona, and then the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on October 17.

DIVISION II MEN – Valentin Pepiot, Academy of Art

Junior | Besançon, France

With just two races under his belt at Academy of Art, it appears to be safe to say that Valentin Pepiot will be among those competing for Division II’s top individual finishes in December. The junior Frenchman – brother of Oregon runner Tanguy Pepiot – finished sixth overall and first among non-DI athletes at the Stanford Invitational, completing the 8k course in 23:42.8. He was 10th at the 3k split before moving up to sixth with just two kilometers to go – a distance he covered faster than all but four runners.

He debuted a little less than two weeks ago with a win at the SF State/Academy of Art/Cal State East Bay meet. He and the Urban Knights are back in action October 10 at San Francisco State

DIVISION II WOMEN – Samantha Rivard, Minnesota Duluth

Sophomore | Oak Grove, Minnesota

For the second time in as many weekends Rivard raced to a dominant victory, this time at the prestigious Minnesota Roy Griak Invitational in the Women’s Maroon II race. On an unseasonably hot and humid day, Rivard took the lead early and did not let it go en route to an 11-second win on the hilly 6k course in 22:02.8. With eventual runner-up Sasha Hovind of Northern State still within striking distance at the halfway point, she turned on the heat in the second half of the race to clinch the comfortable win.

Not only did Rivard get the individual win, but she led her No. 4 Minnesota Duluth squad to a victory over NSIC/Central Region rival No. 7 Augustana (S.D.), 74-97. The Bulldogs will next head to Notre Dame to square off with No. 1 Grand Valley State.

DIVISION III MEN – David Chelimo, Colby

Sophomore | Nyahururu, Kenya

David Chelimo of Colby is the Division III National Athlete of the Week for winning Saturday’s Purple Valley Classic at Williams’s Mt. Greylock course. Chelimo covered the 8k course in 25:42.0 to edge out week two National Athlete of the Week Colin Cotton of Williams by three seconds; Chelimo and Cotton finished more than 30 seconds clear of the rest of the field. He had even more reason than his individual win to celebrate, as he led Colby to a big upset in the team standings over No. 6 Williams and No. 8 MIT, 55-63-72.

In classic freshman fashion a year ago, Chelimo memorably led the 1500 prelims at outdoor nationals by a whopping four seconds at halfway before fading and barely qualifying for the final.  As a sophomore, Chelimo’s fitness may have caught up with his bravery. The Mules return to action with a dual meet against Thomas on Saturday, October 4.

DIVISION III WOMEN – Sarah Quinn, MIT

Sophomore | Watchung, N.J.

After missing the 2013 cross country season, Sarah Quinn made it clear that she was back at full strength on the track in 2014.  On Saturday, the MIT Engineer showed that she’s ready for big things on the trails, winning Williams’s Purple Valley Classic.  Quinn is the Division III National Athlete of the Week for beating her teammate Maryann Gong by six seconds and the rest of the field – which included several All-Americans from a slew of nationally ranked teams – by 13 seconds. She covered the 6k course in 22:23.9.

Quinn, an All-American in the DMR in March and a national qualifier in the 1500 and 5k, returns to action with the rest of her squad at the NEICAAA Championships on October 11 at Franklin Park.