Exceptional Performances in Wisconsin Earn National Athlete of the Week Honors
NEW ORLEANS – The National Athlete of the Week award may take into account performances from all 50 states, but all six honorees announced Monday by the USTFCCCA happened to compete at one of two meets separated by fewer than 100 miles of Wisconsin highway.
Maksim Korolev of Stanford and Crystal Nelson of Iowa State both won amongst loaded fields at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational to earn the Division I awards. Korolev won a head-to-head sprint to the finish with Northern Arizona’s Futsum Zeinesallassie, while Nelson took down numerous former National Athletes of the Week, NCAA track champions and 2014 race winners.
Less than two hours to the north, the UW-Oshkosh AAE Invitational produced the remaining four awards: Alan Peterson of Grand Valley State and Samantha Rivard of Minnesota Duluth (for the second time this season) on the Division II front, and Troy Kelleher of North Central (Ill.) and Lucy Cheadle of Washington (Mo.) (also for the second time this season).
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.
Senior | Harrisonville, Missouri
Maksim Korolev is 2-for-2 in a Stanford uniform. In the first race of his first year, he cruised across the line with his teammate Joe Rosa at home; this weekend, Korolev won a thrilling battle with Futsum Zienasellassie at Wisconsin. Korolev and Zienasellassie—who are two of the top three returners from last year’s NCAAs—traded the lead several times in the last half mile before Korolev pulled away with just under 300 meters to go to win by four seconds in 24:42. The 6-5 Kazakh-American Harvard alum will face an even bigger test against this weekend’s Pre-Nationals champ Ed Cheserek at the Pac-12 championship on Halloween morning.
Honorable mention: Edward Cheserek, Oregon
Junior | Winchester, Virginia
Close to the best field possible lined up for Friday’s Wisconsin adidas Invitational, with three NCAA track champions and the winners of Roy Griak, the Battle in Beantown, Paul Short, and the Washington Invitational all making it to Madison. None of those pre-meet favorites took home the win, though; that would be National Athlete of the Week Crystal Nelson of Iowa State. Nelson hung in the pack for just over four kilometers before joining a small breakaway with Rachele Schulist of Michigan State and Liv Westphal of Boston College. Shortly after the break, Nelson threw in a massive move that quickly decided the race. Her last 2000m was clocked in 6:07, roughly 4:55 mile pace. Next up for Nelson and the eighth-ranked Cyclones is the Big 12 championships at Kansas’s Rim Rock Farm in two weeks.
Honorable mention: Rachel Johnson, Baylor
Senior | Ironwood, Michigan
Though his No. 2 Lakers were upset by DIII No. 1 North Central (Ill.), Alan Peterson pulled through for the win at the UW-Oshkosh AAE Invitational over DIII National Athlete of the Week Troy Kelleher of North Central. He crossed the line in 24:32.9 to win by more than two seconds over Kelleher and nearly seven over UW-Parkside’s Evan Lewandowski. He put on a surge in the final three kilometers to open up a seven-second gap on the field before holding on for the win.
This win comes on the heels of a runner-up finish for Peterson in the Gold race at Notre Dame in the first week of October. His Lakers are competing next at the GLIAC Championships on November 8 at Tiffin.
Honorable mention: Silas Too, Shorter; Job Kemboi, Clayton State; Ian Butler, Western State
Sophomore | Oak Grove, Minnesota
There’s a burgeoning individual rivalry in DII, and we suspect the winner of its showdowns will produce a few more National Athletes of the Week. For the second time this fall, the winner of the Allyson Winchester-Sam Rivard matchup is the AOTW. After losing to her by three seconds at Notre Dame, Rivard beat Winchester by four seconds for third place at Oshkosh on Saturday. At NCAAs in May, Rivard edged out the then-junior from Grand Valley State by less than a second in the 5000. She and the rest of the Bulldogs race next on Friday afternoon at St. Cloud State’s Bob Waxlax Invitational.
Honorable mention: Jenna Thurman, Adams State
Junior | Hilliard, Ohio
For the second straight year, a North Central man is the National Athlete of the Week after finishing as the first DIII runner at UW-Oshkosh. Last October, it was John Crain; today, it’s Troy Kelleher, who finished two seconds behind DII All-American Alan Peterson for second on Saturday. Kelleher has been the No. 1 runner for the No. 1 team in the country all five times that he’s raced this fall. On the track, he was third at NCAAs in the 10000 this spring, which was the best finish for a sophomore in the event in ten years. Kelleher and the Cardinals resume competition on November 1 at the CCIW championships.
Honorable mention: Grant Wintheiser, St. Olaf
Senior | Seattle, Washington
Lucy Cheadle has raced twice this fall, and both times she’s crushed an elite field and won National Athlete of the Week honors. On Saturday at UW-Oshkosh, the senior was in a small pack with Johns Hopkins’s Sophia Meehan, Grand Valley State’s Allyson Winchester, and Minnesota-Duluth’s Sam Rivard (all three of whom have won AOTW at some point this season); she gapped that trio by 12 seconds in the last five minutes of the race. Cheadle, the sixth fastest steeplechaser in Division III history, returns to action with her team at the UAA championships. She won’t have to travel far, as WashU is hosting in St. Louis’s Forest Park.