Biwott Earns Third National Athlete of the Week Honor in 2014

Biwott Earns Third National Athlete of the Week Honor in 2014

NEW ORLEANS – For four of the six National Athletes of the Week, the formula was simple: have the best performance for your Division at the best meet in the country this weekend.  

That meet was the open New England Championship (NEICAAA) meet at Franklin Park, with awards going to winners Elinor Purrier of New Hampshire and Mike Biwott of American International plus Middlebury’s Alison Maxwell and Wilder Schaaf.

Three of the six AOTWs—Purrier, Fordham’s Quincy O’Connor, and Saginaw Valley State’s Emily Short—come from schools that have never had a National Athlete of the Week honoree. 

This is the sixth (!) such award for Biwott in the last two years and the second in as many weeks, while the win for the Middlebury duo marks the second time this season that both DIII winners came from the same school. Washington (Mo.) swept the DIII award earlier this year with Lucy Cheadle and Drew Padgett.

Click each of the student-athletes names above or keep scrolling below to read about the exploits that made all six worthy.

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 – Quincy O’Connor, Fordham

Junior | Celebration, Florida

It had been three years since a man from Fordham has won the individual title at the NYC Metropolitan Championship and quite a few more – 50, to be exact – since Fordham had claimed the team title at the meet – but DI men’s National Athlete of the Week Quincy O’Connor put an end to both of those streaks Friday. He won the five-mile race at the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park in 25:51, nearly 20 seconds clear of the field, to win Fordham’s first individual title since Julian Saad in 2011. His scoring teammates all finished among the top 13 to give the Rams the team win for the first time since 1964.

The win is a drastic improvement on his 17th-place finish a year ago, and marks the meet’s fastest winning time since Saad won in 2011.

DIVISION I WOMEN – Elinor Purrier, New Hampshire

Sophomore | Montgomery, Vermont

After winning the open New England championship by seven seconds and leading her New Hampshire squad to a hundred-point victory over DIII No. 4 Middlebury, Elinor Purrier is the Division I Athlete of the Week.  On  a rainy day in Boston, Purrier won the 5k in 17:27.  Earlier this year, she qualified for the world junior championship steeple final in the #6 American junior time ever.  Next on the Wildcats’ schedule is the CCSU Mini Meet a week from Friday; Purrier’s next race is likely the America East conference meet on November 1.

DIVISION II MEN – Mike Biwott, American International

Junior | Kapsowar, Kenya

We should probably save this sentence in autotext: American International’s Mike Biwott is the DII National Athlete of the Week. For the third time this year (after winning the honor three times last fall), Biwott has won the honor after a totally dominant performance to claim the open New England championship  at Franklin Park  in 24:10. That was 24 seconds ahead of second place and ten seconds faster than Ed Cheserek and Eric Jenkins ran a month ago winning on the same course in drier (albeit warmer) conditions.  Biwott returns to action on October 24 at the Central Connecticut State Mini Meet. We have a template saved.

DIVISION II WOMEN – Emily Short, Saginaw Valley State

Senior | Tawas, Michigan

Emily Short of Saginaw Valley State had the fastest time on the day at Saturday’s Lucian Rosa Invite at UW-Parkside, running 17:41 to win by 13 seconds on the infamously difficult Wayne EDannehl 5k course to win Division II AOTW honors. Short’s DII No. 24 Cardinals lost to No. 19 Northern Michigan by a mere 13 points.

The senior has finished 141st, 20th, and 18th in the last three Novembers at NCAAs.  After posting such a quality time at Parkside, Short may be ready for the second big national leap of her career.  Saginaw Valley State’s last race before championship season is the Eastern Michigan Classic on October 24.

DIVISION III MEN – Wilder Schaaf, Middlebury

Senior | Ashland, Ore.

Wilder Schaaf led the unranked Middlebury Panthers to wins over no less than five DIII nationally ranked teams at Saturday’s open New England championship.  Schaaf took seventh overall in 24:46; Middlebury reports that that’s the fastest 8k ever run by a Panther man.

A miler on the track (9th at indoor NCAAs in March), Schaaf has placed 126th and 125th at the last two cross country national championships.  He and the rest of the Panthers hit the trails next on Saturday at the University of Albany.

DIVISION III WOMEN – Alison Maxwell, Middlebury

Senior | Port Angeles, Washington

After her No. 3-ranked Middlebury squad fell to No. 2 MIT  at Williams two weeks ago—with Alison Maxwell taking fourth place—Maxwell and the Panthers were the top DIII finishers at Saturday’s open New England championship. 

Maxwell ran 18:00 for 5k in cold and rainy conditions Saturday, edging out MIT’s Maryann Gong by eight hundredths of a second for 11th place.  This marks the second race in a row for Gong finishing one place behind the National Athlete of the Week.  Maxwell and Midd are back in action on Saturday at the Albany Invitational.