NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (October 15)

NEW ORLEANS – The postseason is right around the corner, which means the biggest weekend of the regular season just passed.

There were some incredible efforts this past weekend and here are 10 athletes who stood out from their peers and were named National Athletes of the Week on Monday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

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 10 collegiate cross country athletes (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions and two NJCAA 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. Nominated athletes are noticed before those athletes found through searching TFRRS.

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 – Grant Fisher, Stanford

Senior | Grand Blanc, Michigan

Quality of competition and suspenseful finishes are two of the deciding factors when it comes to naming a National Athlete of the Week. So when Grant Fisher outkicked Northern Arizona’s Tyler Day and Matthew Baxter down the stretch to win the stacked Men’s Cardinal Race at the Wisconsin Pre-National Invitational this past weekend, it was pretty clear who’d earn the honor.

Both Day and Fisher crossed the finish line in 23:48.8, but when the time was extended into the hundredth of a second, Fisher was deemed the winner. Fisher made his 2018 debut in the race.

This is the second year in a row that Fisher has been named National Athlete of the Week in cross country. Fisher was also honored on October 30, 2017, following his victory at the Pac-12 Championships, a title he will defend in two weeks.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Weini Kelati, New Mexico

Sophomore | Leesburg, Virginia

Weini Kelati romped to the individual victory in the Women’s White Race at the Wisconsin Pre-National Invitational this past weekend.

Kelati crossed the finish line in 19:33.3, 12 seconds ahead of teammate – and 2017 NCAA individual champion – Ednah Kurgat, who finished runner-up.

This was the second time Kelati raced on the 6K tract at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course. Kelati also competed in the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, but bettered her time by two seconds from then to now.

This is the first time that Kelati has been named National Athlete of the Week in cross country and the fourth time that the women’s program from New Mexico has been honored.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Zach Panning, Grand Valley State

Senior | Fort Wayne, Indiana

Zach Panning capped off the 2018 cross country regular season with an individual title at the Bradley Pink Classic after he ran a 24:06.7 in the 8K race. The performance helped his team finish as the top Division II school and the second team overall at the meet.

It was the third time this year that Panning has claimed an individual title as he previously finished first at both the MSU Spartan Invitational and Loyola Lakefront Invitational.

Panning becomes the first male and second Grand Valley State athlete ever to be selected for the National Athlete of the Week award during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Sadie Baker, Adams State

Senior | Colorado Springs, Colorado

Sadie Baker was chosen as National Athlete of the Week after picking up the individual title in the gold race at the Fort Hays State Tiger Open this past weekend. The senior posted a time of 17:57.7 and finished nearly 13 seconds faster than the next closet athlete.

Baker’s performance helped the Grizzlies to a second-place finish overall and the top NCAA DII program at the meet as they almost knocked off NCAA DI Air Force, falling by just a single point.

She becomes the first female and just the second Adams State athlete ever to honored as National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Dhruvil Patel, North Central (Ill.)

Senior | Skokie, Illinois

Dhruvil Patel continues to prove he is the man to beat in NCAA Division III cross country.

Patel cruised to the individual title this past weekend at the Kollege Town Sports Invitational, which served as the de facto Pre-National Invitational for the division. He crossed the finish line in 25:03.5, nearly 10 seconds ahead of teammate Matt Osmulski, who finished runner-up.

That was the third win of the season for Patel, who also captured individual crowns at the Elmhurst College Earlybird Invitational and the Illinois State Invitational.

This is the third time this season that Patel has been named National Athlete of the Week.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Claire Lamb, Otterbein

Senior | Granville, Ohio

Claire Lamb stole the show this past weekend at the Kollege Town Sports Invitational.

Lamb pulled away to win the individual title at the de facto Pre-National Invitational for NCAA Division III. She crossed the finish line in 21:23.1, a full eight seconds ahead of the runner-up, and remained undefeated against NCAA DIII competition this season.

Lamb is the second athlete (first woman) from Otterbein to be named National Athlete of the Week in cross country. She joins Ian Kellogg, who earned the honor last year on September 11.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Ezekiel Kipchirchir, Iowa Central CC

Freshman | Eldoret, Kenya

Ezekiel Kipchirchir became the latest Iowa Central CC athlete to be honored with a National Athlete of the Week award.

The freshman won the 8K title at the Jim Drews Invitational with a time of 24:56.2 and helped his squad to the meet championship for the second year in-a-row.

The Iowa Central men have now been honored 22 times with National Athlete of the Week honors in cross country.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Benadine Chelimo, Trinidad State JC

Sophomore | Eldoret, Kenya

Benadine Chelimo became the first athlete in Trinidad State history to earn a National Athlete of the Week honor.

The sophomore from Eldoret won the Women’s Black 5K race at the Fort Hays State Tiger Open this past weekend after posting a time of 19:05.7 on the 5K course.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Mike Dowd, Rowan-Gloucester CC

Sophomore | Williamstown, New Jersey

Mike Dowd was selected as a National Athlete of the Week for the second week in a row after he placed second at the St. Joseph’s College Invitational.

Dowd recorded a time of 27:50.7 for the 8K course.

He is still the only athlete in program history to earn the honor. To go with his two times this season, Dowd was also picked once during the 2017 season.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Tyesha James, Kingsborough CC (N.Y.)

Sophomore | Brooklyn, New York

Tyesha James picked up her second National Athlete of the Week nod of the season after finishing sixth overall at the St. Joseph’s College Invitational this past weekend.

The sophomore posted a time of 20:27.2 for the 5K course.

James, who also was named a National Athlete of the Week on September 17, is just the second athlete in program history to win the award and the only female athlete to do so. The Brooklyn native also was honored once during the 2017 season.