NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (October 17)

NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (October 17)

NEW ORLEANS — The NCAA and NJCAA Cross Country regular seasons reached their climax this past weekend, which means the postseason is right around the corner.

There were 10 athletes across three NCAA divisions and the two NJCAA subsets that stood out the most, though.

For the men, the best of the best were: Syracuse’s Justyn Knight (NCAA Division I), Shorter’s Alfred Chelanga (NCAA Division II), SUNY Geneseo’s Isaac Garcia-Cassani (NCAA Division III), Iowa Central’s Omer Almog (NJCAA Division I) and Howard CC’s Corey Young (NJCAA Division III).

The standout women were Boise State’s Brenna Peloquin (NCAA Division I), Northern Michigan’s Sophie McDonald (NCAA Division II), Stevens Institute’s Amy Regan (NCAA Division III), Iowa Central’s Leanne Pompeani (NJCAA Division I) and Harper College’s Ali Gutt (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.

NCAA DIVISION I MEN — Justyn Knight, Syracuse

Junior | Vaughan, Ontario, Canada

For the second year in a row, Justyn Knight found himself locked in a battle down the home stretch of the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. But unlike last year, Knight dug deep and left no doubt who the best runner was on that day.

Knight outkicked Northern Arizona’s Futsum Zienasellassie and Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald, among others, to post his second win of the season. The Syracuse junior crossed the finish line in 23:53.1, two seconds ahead of Zienasellassie.

This past weekend’s race played out how most races of that caliber do. Knight looked in control the entire time and unleashed his kick in the final 200 meters to blow past former leader George Parsons of NC State.

Knight will look to add another victory to his tally when the Orange travels to the ACC Championships in two weeks.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN — Brenna Peloquin, Boise State

Sophomore | Gig Harbor, Washington

Brenna Peloquin’s breakout season continues.

Three weeks after posting her first collegiate XC win at the Roy Griak Invitational, Peloquin doubled up and notched her second — this time in Madison, Wisconsin. Peloquin fought off New Mexico’s Alice Wright and Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer and crossed the finish line in 20:00.8 at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational.

The race in Wisconsin played out just how the one in Minnesota did, but with one major difference. When Peloquin made her big move, Rohrer and Wright went right with her.

Peloquin adjusted and threw in another move later, one that Rohrer and Wright couldn’t match.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Alfred Chelanga, Shorter

Sophomore | Nairobi, Kenya

On a weekend when most NCAA Division II athletes and teams around the nation were quietly awaiting next weekend’s conference championships, defending national champion Alfred Chelanga made a resounding statement at the Alabama Crimson Classic.

The sophomore covered the approximately 8K course in 23:47.4, nearly a half-minute clear of reigning NCAA DI South Region Antibahs Kosgei of Alabama and more than 30 second ahead of Jacob Thomson of Kentucky (who finished 44th at the NCAA DI Championships a year ago).

Chelanga created that gap between himself and Kosgei in the final three kilometers of the race, as he and Kosgei passed the 5K split together.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Sophie McDonald, Northern Michigan

Sophomore | Park City, Utah

Sophie McDonald was the clear winner in the Upper Peninsula Cross Country Championships this past weekend, outrunning teammate Nicole Schneider by 19 seconds to take the title of “fastest female Michigander north of the Mackinac Bridge.”

The sophomore, who trades in the spikes in the fall for cross country skis in the winter as part of Northern Michigan’s squad – covered the 6K course on her home turf in 22:59.0.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN — Isaac Garcia-Cassani, SUNY Geneseo

Junior | Holbrook, New York

Isaac Garcia-Cassani continues to prove he’s going to be among the contenders for the NCAA DIII individual title.

This past weekend a talented field was assembled in New Jersey for the Rowan Border Battle. A plethora of ranked teams were in the hunt, as were top athletes from ranked teams.

Garcia-Cassani topped several former National Athletes of the Week and crossed the finish line of the 7.8K course in 23:19.9, eight seconds ahead of Widener’s Ernie Pitone. That low stick also helped SUNY Geneseo to the team title.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN — Amy Regan, Stevens Institute

Senior | Green Brook, New Jersey

Until Amy Regan loses again, it’s fair to call her the odds-on favorite to win the individual title in NCAA DIII XC.

If Regan has her say, her winning streak will continue as long as it can.

This past weekend at the Rowan Border Battle, Regan cruised to an 11-second win over a stacked field that included runners from No. 1 SUNY Geneseo, No. 2 MIT and No. 4 Johns Hopkins. Regan broke the tape in 6K PR of 20:17.6 and won her 12th consecutive race against strict NCAA DIII competition.

We’ll see Regan and the Ducks a few times before NCAAs in Louisville, Kentucky, which gives the senior a few more chances to add wins to her resume.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN — Omer Almog, Iowa Central

Freshman | Israel

Omer Almog notched his first collegiate XC win this past weekend in a big way.

Almog pulled away over the last one-third of the Jim Drews Invitational to beat a field filled with top athletes from NCAA DIII teams. His finishing time of 24:59.8 edged teammate Karim Achengli to the line by nearly four seconds and helped lead the Tritons to a near sweep of the proceedings (1-2-3-4-13).

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN — Leanne Pompeani, Iowa Central

Sophomore | Canberra, Australia

The reigning NCAA DIII women’s XC champion wasn’t enough to keep Leanna Pompeani from winning yet again.

Pompeani beat Cornell College’s Abrah Masterson by nearly 34 seconds at the Tori Neubauer Invitational this past weekend. It was Pompeani’s second win of the season and her second by more than 30 seconds.


Sophomore | Silver Spring, Maryland

Corey Young was the highest-finishing NJCAA DIII man at the Hood College Invitational, taking 15th on the five-mile course in 27:23. He led his Dragons to a fifth-place team showing against the largely NCAA Division III field.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN — Ali Gutt, Harper College

Sophomore | Schaumburg, Illinois

Continuing on her track as a national title favorite in NJCAA DIII with her third National Athlete of the Week honor, Ali Gutt impressed this weekend at the Bradley “Pink” Classic. Running in the White Division race, Gutt covered the 3.73-mile course in 22:21.1 to finish as the runner-up in the race against runners from several NCAA Division I, NCAA DIII and NAIA programs.

Her performance led Harper to a ninth-place showing in the team standings.