NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (Sept. 3)

NEW ORLEANS – Hands up if you missed cross country.

That’s what we thought.

Athletes across the nation kicked things off on the grass circuit this past weekend and turned in a bevy of strong performances. Here are those athletes that caught the eye of the USTFCCCA Communications Staff and were named National Athlete of the Week.

Note: NCAA Division II has its “First Contest” set for Thursday, September 5, so we’ll resume that division’s honors next Monday. We’ll also resume the award for NJCAA Division III at that time, too.

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, when applicable (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 – Amon Kemboi, Campbell

Junior | Kapsabet, Kenya

Amon Kemboi must love racing at the Elon Opener.

How else could you explain three wins in three races?

Kemboi, a junior from Kapsabet, Kenya, opened his junior year just like he did his freshman and sophomore campaigns – with a win in Elon, North Carolina. He cruised to victory in 18:19.4, a full seven seconds ahead of runner-up Alex Miley from Duke.

It was the first collegiate race for Kemboi since he competed in the 3000 and 5000 at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships this past March. Kemboi, who earned First-Team All-America honors in the 5000, drew a redshirt during this past outdoor season.

This is the second year in a row that Kemboi has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. He last earned the honor on September 17, 2018.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Scolasticah Kemei, Elon

Senior | Eldoret, Kenya

Scholasticah Kemei picked a great way to make a first impression on the cross country course.

Kemei, who transferred to Elon from Mississippi Valley State before the indoor season, earned a thrilling win at the Elon Opener this past weekend. She outkicked Sara Platek of Duke in the final 200 meters to nab the individual title by one second.

Winning isn’t new to Kemei, however, as she was the back-to-back individual champion at the SWAC Cross Country Championships in 2017 and 2018.

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

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Aleksi Bingham, RIT

Sophomore | Derby, Vermont

The Fisher-Rodenbeck Invitational featured some stout early-season competition for those teams in the NCAA DIII Atlantic Region. Preseason favorite SUNY Geneseo went up against several other top-10 teams from the region, including No. 6 RIT.

Aleksi Bingham was first across the finish line this past weekend as he covered the 6K course in 19:42.4, nearly 11 seconds ahead of the runner-up. It was the first win of Bingham’s collegiate career and it came in his debut as a member of the RIT program.

This is the third year in a row that a male athlete from RIT has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Otto Kingstedt took home honors on both October 9, 2017 and October 8, 2018.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Ciara Knott, SUNY Geneseo

Freshman | Saratoga Springs, New York

Ciara Knott made quite the splash in her collegiate debut.

Knott, a freshman from Saratoga Springs, New York, picked up the individual title at the Fisher-Rodenbeck Invitational this past weekend. She covered the 4K course in 15:11.9, beating her closest competitor by nearly 14 seconds.

This is the first time that a female athlete from SUNY Geneseo has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

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

Freshman | South Africa

If you want one of the best early-season meets on the NJCAA schedule, look no further than the Terry Masterson Twilight Classic. The competition was fierce this weekend as top JUCO teams from across the Midwest raced against each other.

When the dust settled, Dais Malebana picked up the individual win over Andrew Kibet of Hutchinson CC. Malebana covered the 4 mile course in 19:51.8, nearly five seconds faster than Kibet did.

This is the third time in the past four years that an athlete from Cloud County CC has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Lubna Suied, Cowley College

Freshman | Tomball, Texas

Lubna Suied showed her might in her first race on the collegiate level.

Suied, a freshman from Tomball, Texas, posted a 43-second win at the Terry Masterson Twilight Classic this past weekend. She covered the 3 mile course in 18:40.8.

This marks the first time that an athlete from Cowley College has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.