NCAA & NJCAA Cross Country National Athletes of the Week
NEW ORLEANS – For the first time this season, there is a two-time National Athlete of the Week as handed out Monday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
Leanne Pompeani of Iowa Central Community College, this week’s female NJCAA Division I honoree, is the first back-to-back recipient of the honor during the 2015 collegiate cross country season.
Other National Athlete of the Week for the week of September 21 include Indiana State’s John Mascari (Division I men), North Carolina State’s Ryen Frazier (Division I women), Colorado Mines’ Nathanael Williams (Division II men), Dallas Baptist’s Kelsey Bruce (Division II women), St. Olaf College’s Jake Campbell (Division III men), Johns Hopkins’ Sophia Meehan (Division III women), Iowa Central’s Andrew Ronoh (NJCAA Division I men), and Rowan-Gloucester’s Martin Maldonado and the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Shannen Gallardo in NJCAA Division III.
Find out more about each of these runners by clicking their names or scrolling below.
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 | Terre Haute, Indiana
Prior to Friday’s Indiana Intercollegiate Championships, no man in the 75-year history of the meet had ever been able to call himself a four-time individual champion. John Mascari of Indiana State can now claim that honor.
Running in his final home collegiate race on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in his hometown of Terre Haute, Mascari turned on the afterburners late in the 8K race to claim his fourth consecutive Indiana Intercollegiate title in 24:57.2. He defeated perennial DII All-American Johnnie Guy of Southern Indiana by 12 seconds and last week’s DII National Athlete of the Week Alex Cushman of Indianapolis by 15.
This is Mascari’s second individual win of the season, and he’ll go for three in a row at the Notre Dame Invitational on October 2. That race will be covered live by the USTFCCCA as part of the National Results Wall.
Freshman | Raleigh, North Carolina
Familiarity breeds success.
Such was the case for NC State’s highly touted freshman Ryen Frazier, who set a course record at the adidas XC Challenge this weekend in her collegiate debut. Frazier, who ran in the meet last year as a high school senior, finished the 5K course in 16:06.4 and destroyed the previous mark by 22 seconds.
Behind Frazier’s record performance, the 16th-ranked Wolfpack ran away with the team title. NC State scored 19 points and put four runners in the top six.
The Wolfpack will race again in two weeks at the Notre Dame Invitational, where she will likely face off with rival frosh phenom Anna Rohrer.
Junior | Carson City, Nevada
For the second weekend in a row, the men’s NCAA DII National Athlete of the Week is a Mr. Williams from an RMAC school in the state of Colorado. Nope, it’s not reigning winner Derrick Williams of CSU-Pueblo (though he does have a role to play in this story), but rather Nathanael Williams of Colorado Mines.
Williams won the 8K race at Colorado College in 24:48, topping multiple-time All-American teammate Marty Andrie by six seconds and CSU-Pueblo’s Williams by a whopping 42 seconds. Behind Williams’ effort, the Colorado Mines men took the meet with 24 points.
Colorado Mines is next in action on October 3 when it splits its squad between the Arkansas Chile Pepper Festival and the Colorado Rocky Mountain Shootout.
Senior | Brackettville, Texas
Today is September 21. Fast-forward two months to November 21 and Joplin, Missouri, will play host to the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships. If Dallas Baptist’s Kelsey Bruce runs anything like she did in Joplin this past weekend at the Missouri Southern Stampede – a de facto Pre-National Invitational – in two months’ time at NCAAs, she’s set for a good day.
The senior cruised to an easy win in Saturday’s 5K race, covering the course in 16:47.9, nearly 15 seconds clear of runner-up Aly Coughlin of Tarleton State, the winner of last week’s North Texas Ken Garland Invitational.
Bruce was 41st at the NCAA Championships to end her most recent cross country season in 2013, and has since been a three-time All-American on the track. She and the Patriots are next in action on October 3 at the Arkansas Chile Pepper Festival.
Senior | Edina, Minnesota
Down the stretch it was a three-man race at last Saturday’s St. Olaf Invitational. St. Olaf’s Jake Campbell battled UW-Eau Claire’s Christian Leitner and Carleton’s former National Athlete of the Week Hart Horner. Ultimately it was Campbell who beat the other two to the finish line for the win.
Campbell finished the 8K course in 25:20.2 and provided the spark the Oles needed to win the team title over UW-Eau Claire.
The next race for Campbell and his teammates is not until Oct. 2 when they take part in the Blugold Invitational, hosted by UW-Eau Claire.
Senior | Haverford, Pennsylvania
Johns Hopkins senior Sophia Meehan had a strong race last weekend at the Paddy Doyle Meet of Champions.
If Meehan competed for any of the nine Division I teams in the mix, she would have been eight of those team’s top finisher. Only Wisconsin had a runner fare better than runner-up Meehan on the course at Van Cortlandt Park. Thing is that Meehan runs for the Blue Jays and that’s fine with them. Meehan’s second-place finish led Johns Hopkins to a second-place team finish behind the aforementioned nationally-ranked Badgers.
The Blue Jays return to action Oct. 2 at the prestigious Paul Short Invitational.
Freshman | Nakuru, Kenya
One week after setting a school record, Iowa Central’s Andrew Ronoh had quite an encore. Ronoh, a freshman from Nakuru, Kenya, won the individual title at the Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational. He was the only runner in the 233-man field to go sub-25 minutes in the race (24:51.4).
Ronoh and the Tritons will take this weekend off before competing Oct. 3 at the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Freshman | Canberra, Australia
For the second consecutive week, Iowa Central freshman Leanne Pompeani ran away from the field and claimed yet another individual title. Pompeani won the Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational with a time of 21:52.3 and was the only female runner to break 22 minutes in the race.
This is Pompeani’s second National Athlete of the Week honor in a row.
Sophomore | Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
Maldanado was the top NJCAA finisher at Rowan’s Bill Fritz/Charlie Way Invitational, finishing third overall in a mostly NCAA DII and DIII field of nearly 100 runners. He covered the 8K course in 26:54.9, coming 11 seconds shy of the win – which would have been his second in a row after claiming the Cumberland CC Dukes Invitational last week by nearly 50 seconds.
The time is a career-best for Maldonado, who made a name for himself on the track this spring at a distance 10 times shorter. He was the NJCAA DIII national champ at 800 meters, and took fourth at 1500 meters.
Sophomore | Cliffside Park, New Jersey
In one of the closest finishes of the weekend anywhere in the country, it was Gallardo who came out on top at the Queensborough CC Invitational on Sunday. In a true photo finish, just .01 of a second separated Gallardo from teammate Sara Lucas, with only another .01 difference to third-place Renee Osma of Middlesex CC. She took the win in 22:03.1 after finishing sixth at the College of Staten Island last week.