NCAA DII XC National Athletes of the Week (Nov. 17)

NEW ORLEANS – The fall segment of the NCAA Division II Cross Country season drew to a close this past weekend with the running of the D2 XC National Invitational as well as the Peach Belt Conference Championships.

Here are those individuals who stood out the most from those meets and were named National Athletes of the Week on Tuesday 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 12 collegiate cross country athletes, when applicable (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions and three 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 II MEN – Joshua Chepkesir, UNC Pembroke

Junior | Eldoret, Kenya

Joshua Chepkesir continues to etch his name into Peach Belt Conference history.

The junior from Eldoret, Kenya, traversed the 8K course in 23:41.9 to clinch the individual crown at the PBC Championships. This is the third conference title for Chepkesir, becoming the first men’s cross country athlete in PBC history to win three straight. His winning time also bettered his own championship record of 23:48.1 set a year ago.

Chepkesir took the race from the gun for an early 13-second lead at the first split and steadily pushed it to 19.6 seconds at 5K. He opened the gap even further, leading by 30.2 seconds at 6.7K before a strong finish that gave him a comfortable 42-second margin of victory.

His PBC title closed out an undefeated season. He also won the Tom Scott Open and the Royals Challenge.

This is the second National Athlete of the Week honor for Chepkesir during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Mackenzie Taylor, Augusta

Sophomore | Leesburg, Georgia

Mackenzie Taylor had a record breaking day in her Peach Belt Conference debut.

Taylor, a sophomore from Leesburg, Georgia, captured the women’s individual title at the PBC Championships, navigating the 5K course in 17:07.9. Her time set a new championship meet record, bettering the previous mark of 17:18.8 set in 2017.

Taylor also recorded the largest margin of victory in Peach Belt women’s cross country history. She registered a 23-second lead at 1.7K, 45.6 seconds at the 3.4K split, and extended it even further as she clinched her title by 54.9 seconds. The previous record was 49.44 seconds that stood since 2001.

The PBC Championships capped an undefeated season for Taylor, as she won three other races this year – the UNG PBC Preview Meet, the Blazer Classic Open Race, and Koala XC Classic.

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