NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (Sept. 23)

NEW ORLEANS – There was some major racing happening across the nation this past weekend.

And those who showed out during a big weekend deserve to be honored.

Here are the 10 athletes who stood out the most from their peers and were named National Athletes of the Week by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Monday.

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 – Edwin Kurgat, Iowa State

Senior | Eldoret, Kenya

Edwin Kurgat proved why many consider him to be a favorite to win the individual title come November at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Kurgat, the highest finishing returner from last year’s NCAA meet, crossed the finish line first at the stacked John McNichols Invitational in 23:47.3, nearly four seconds ahead of Thomas Ratcliffe of Stanford, who finished runner-up in 23:51.0. Top athletes from three top-10 teams were entered in the race, including numerous All-Americans from cross country and track.

This is the first time in program history that a male athlete from Iowa State has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Taylor Werner, Arkansas

Senior | Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

Taylor Werner tasted victory on the cross country course for the first time in three years.

Werner, who is riding a wave of momentum from an outdoor season where she earned two First-Team All-America honors in Austin, captured the individual title at the John McNichols Invitational this past weekend in 16:24.6, nearly 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Fiona O’Keeffe of Stanford. It was Werner’s first win on the grass circuit since her freshman year.

This is only the third time that a Razorback has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Werner joins two-time winner Dominique Scott as the only Arkansas athletes to earn this honor.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Gidieon Kimutai, Missouri Southern

Sophomore | Eldoret, Kenya

Gidieon Kimutai made a statement on his home course.

Kimutai, an All-American in cross country as a freshman, won the Southern Stampede and led the Lions to a team crown over nationally-ranked Northwest Missouri State. The sophomore traversed the 8K course in 24:04.1 for a 17-second victory over two-time NAIA national champion Oscar KipKoros of Oklahoma City. His time also marked a new personal best at the distance, an improvement of 43 seconds from his showing last year when he finished second.

This is the third time in program history the Lions have had a National Athlete of the Week. Vincent Kiprop received the honor twice during the 2016 cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Elysia Burgos, Southwest Baptist

Sophomore | Edmond, Oklahoma

Elysia Burgos has made a huge climb from a year ago.

The sophomore from Edmond, Oklahoma, was the top collegian at the Southern Stampede, winning the 5K race in 17:25.8 for an eight-second victory. She also set a new personal best at the distance by 48 seconds. A year ago, Burgos placed 101st at last year’s meet in 19:33.8.

This is the first time an athlete from Southwest Baptist has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Ryan Cutter, UChicago

Junior | El Sombrante, California

Ryan Cutter must be happy to get back to racing.

Cutter, a junior from El Sombrante, California, picked up his first career win on the grass circuit this past weekend. He covered the 8K tract at the Wheaton Gil Dodds Invitational in a time of 25:18.1, a full second ahead of runner-up Matt Osmulski of North Central (Ill.), who finished 11th at NCAAs last year.

This is the first time in program history that a male athlete from the UChicago has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Brianna Hickey was the first female athlete to earn the honor in award history back in 2014.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Anastasia Tucker, Hope

Freshman | Midland, Michigan

Anastasia Tucker has started her collegiate career with a bang.

Tucker, a freshman from Midland, Michigan, won the individual title at the Wheaton Gil Dodds Invitational this past weekend in 22:22.8, nearly two seconds ahead of Aryn Embretson of Wheaton (Ill.), who finished runner-up. It was Tucker’s first race at the 6K distance.

This is the second time in program history that a female athlete from Hope has been named National Athlete of the Week. Erin Herrmann earned the honor back on September 12, 2016.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Dais Malebana, Cloud County (Kan.) CC

Freshman | Pretoria, South Africa

Dais Malebana is on a tear, earning National Athlete of the Week for the third time this year.

The freshman from Pretoria, South Africa, finished 3rd in the Woody Greeno/Jay Dirksen Invitational this weekend. He covered the 8k course in 24:40.0 to lead the No. 1-ranked T-Birds to the College Division team title over No. 3 Iowa Central CC and No. 5 Iowa Western CC.

Malebana joins Dennis Kiptoo (2018) and Moses Dirane (2016) as T-Bird runners who have earned this award three times in one season. Dirane actually won it four times, equal to the most by any JUCO runner in one season.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Faith Linga Chepengat, Iowa Western CC

Freshman | Nairobi, Kenya

What a difference a couple of weeks can make.

When Faith Linga Chepengat earned the National Athlete of the Week award two weeks ago, she lost by 0.1 seconds to Abby Ripperda of NCAA Division I South Dakota. This past weekend at the Woody Greeno/Jay Dirksen Invitational, Chepengat made sure it wasn’t so close. The freshman from Nairobi, Kenya won the 5k race in 17:09.1, beating Ripperda by nearly eight seconds.

Chepengat is now the first Revier to win this award multiple times.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Jacob Melgosa, Harper College

Sophomore | Algonquin, Illinois

Jacob Melgosa ran well at the Forester Invitational this past weekend.

Melgosa, a sophomore from Algonquin, Illinois, finished runner-up in a time of 27:49.8 on the 8K tract. It was a 10-second improvement on the same course from last year.

This is the fourth year in a row that a male athlete from Harper College has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Alexandra Smith, Suffolk CC

Freshman | Shoreham, New York

Make it back-to-back weeks for Alexandra Smith.

Smith, a freshman from Shoreham, New York, finished 13th overall out of 160 athletes at the Fred Pavlich Invitational this past weekend. She covered her maiden voyage on a 6K tract in 24:51.7.

This is the first time that an NJCAA DIII female athlete has earned back-to-back National Athlete of the Week honors since Ali Gutt of Harper College did so in 2016.