NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (Oct. 7)

NEW ORLEANS – Big victories and course records headlined the collegiate cross country weekend.

Here are 10 athletes who stood out the most 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 – Vincent Kiprop, Alabama

Grad Student | Kericho, Kenya

By the 7K split at the Joe Piane Invitational, it was clear that either Vincent Kiprop or Gilbert Kigen would bring back the first National Athlete of the Week honor to Alabama since 2015.

When Kiprop pulled away from his teammate in the final mile and won the individual title by nearly four seconds, it made the decision A LOT easier.

Kiprop earned the individual title in the Men’s Blue Division 5 Mile with a 23:09.88 effort. That was a 15-second PR at the distance for the graduate student from Kericho, Kenya.

As we said before, this is the first time since 2015 that an athlete from Alabama has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Antibahs Kosgei was honored back on September 8, 2015, after winning the Memphis Twilight Cross Country Classic.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Weini Kelati, New Mexico

Junior | Leesburg, Virginia

Weini Kelati made it look easy this past weekend at the Joe Piane Invitational.

The junior from Leesburg, Virginia, dominated the proceedings as she won by 12 seconds over runner-up Alicia Monson of Wisconsin. Kelati covered the 5K course in 16:01.61, faster than any other athlete has in the past seven years.

This is the second time that Kelati has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Kelati took home the honor for the first time last year after she won the individual title at the Wisconsin Pre-National Invitational.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Taylor Stack, Western Colorado

Junior | Salida, Colorado

Taylor Stack, a junior from Salida, Colorado, was the top NCAA Division II runner at the Chile Pepper Festival that featured a cross-divisional battle between nationally-ranked teams from just about every collegiate division. Crossing the line in 23:55.1 for a 8K PR by nearly 48 seconds, Stack was the third best collegian in the field and fifth overall.

This is the second National Athlete of the Week honor for Western Colorado in men’s cross country. The first was Keifer Johnson back on September 8, 2014.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Eilish Flanagan, Adams State

Senior | Gortin, Ireland

The course record at the prestigious Paul Short Run didn’t stand a chance this past weekend.

Eilish Flanagan made quick work of the competition and the 6K distance in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.The senior from Gortin, Ireland, crossed the finish line in 19:37.1, six seconds ahead of two-time NCAA DI All-American Jessica Drop of Georgia and a 70-second PR for the Grizzly.

This is the second time that a student-athlete from Adams State has been named the National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. The first was Sadie Baker on October 15, 2018.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Tyler Nault, UW-La Crosse

Senior | Peshtigo, Wisconsin

Tyler Nault showed why he should be considered a contender for the individual title at the 2019 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.

Nault beat a talented field at the Live in the Lou Classic this past weekend, a meet that served as the NCAA DIII Pre-National Invitational. He covered the same 8K course that those athletes and teams that qualify for NCAAs will in November in 24:19.2.

This is the first time in the past five years that an athlete from UW-La Crosse has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Paige Lawler, Washington (Mo.)

Senior | Lexington, Massachusetts

Paige Lawler opened her senior season in a big way.

The defending NCAA individual champion posted a four-second win at the Dan Huston Invitational, beating Kassie Rosenbaum of Loras, who was a two-time All-American this past outdoor season including an individual title in the 10,000 meters.

This is the first time since 2014 that a female athlete from WashU has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Lucy Cheadle earned the honor three times for her efforts five years ago.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Dais Malebana, Cloud County CC

Freshman | Pretoria, South Africa

Facing his biggest challenge of the year, Dais Malebana was easily the top JUCO runner at the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The freshman from Pretoria, South Africa, was 10th in the 8k race, finishing in 24:08.9 as NJCAA No. 1 Cloud County CC and NJCAA No. 2 Iowa Central CC battled among many four-year programs.

This is the fourth National Athlete of the Week honor for Malebana, as he has won it following every time he has raced this year.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Flomena Asekol, New Mexico JC

Freshman | Eldoret, Kenya

Flomena Asekol won for the fourth time in four weeks, capturing the individual title at the South Plains Open 5k by more than 12 seconds in 17:52.3. The meet found three top-10-ranked teams finishing within five points of each other.

This marks back-to-back National Athlete of the Week honors for Asekol.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Christopher Benitez, Bergen CC

Sophomore | Marywood, New Jersey

Christopher Benitez put a strong effort together at the Highlander Tech Challenge.

Benitez clocked a time of 26:30.0 over the 8K course to place 19th in a strong field. It was a 2:30 improvement over the same distance from the previous week.

This is the first time since 2016 that an athlete from Bergen CC 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

Alexandra Smith is used to running up front.

The freshman from Shoreham, New York, competed for the win this past weekend at the Highlander Tech Challenge, but ultimately finished second behind an NCAA DI runner. Smith covered the 5K tract in 18:10.1.

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