NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (September 27)

NEW ORLEANS – We saw some incredible racing this past weekend!

Here are the National Athletes of the Week in NCAA Cross Country and NJCAA Cross Country for September 27, 2021, as released on Monday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

Find out more about each of these athletes 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 the NJCAA).

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 – Conner Mantz, BYU

Senior | Smithfield, Utah

We billed it as a clash between heavyweights.

Well, if the race between Wesley Kiptoo of Iowa State and Conner Mantz of BYU at the Roy Griak Invitational was a prizefight, it went all 12 rounds and the knockout blow wasn’t delivered until the final second. That’s because one second was the difference between Mantz’s victory and Kiptoo’s runner-up finish: Mantz crossed the finish line in 23:53.9; Kiptoo at 23:54.9.

Want to know something even more remarkable? The team title was decided by just one point – No. 3 BYU edged No. 10 Iowa State, 34-35 – which means Mantz’s victory gave the Cougars the winning margin.

This is the second time in the past three years that Mantz has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Mantz previously earned the honor on September 30, 2019, following a victory at the Bill Dellinger Invitational.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Cailie Logue, Iowa State

Senior | Erie, Kansas

One by one, Cailie Logue moved up the pack until she no longer could.

By that time, Logue was in the lead in the final 1k at the Roy Griak Invitational and kept it rolling all the way to the individual title in 20:57.9, nearly two seconds faster than runner-up Jenna Magness of Michigan State. Logue topped a talented field that included three nationally-ranked programs and four athletes who earned All-America honors this past spring.

Normally a front-runner, Logue bided her time on the challenging course at Les Bolstad Golf Course. Logue sat 17th after 1 mile and then 13th at the 3k split. From there, Logue worked her way through the masses and grabbed her fourth individual title in the past two seasons.

This is the second year in a row that Logue has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Logue previously earned the honor on September 22, 2020, following a victory at the Bob Timmons Classic.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Issac Prather, Concord (W. Va.)

Senior | Summersville, West Virginia

Issac Prather was unmatched at the Queen City Invite.

Prather ran away from the field to win the 8k in 23:43 on a fast course at Alpine Creek Park in Charlotte, North Carolina. He won the race by 26 seconds over runner-up Jan Lukas Becker of Queens (N.C.). His winning time was also the second-fastest time recorded in Mountain East Conference history for 8k, missing the top performance by two seconds.

Prather’s victory on Friday evening was his second win of the season, as he took home top honors at the Charleston Cross Country Invitational three weeks prior.

This is the first time in program history an athlete from Concord (W. Va.) has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Lindsay Cunningham, Winona State

Freshman | Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Lindsay Cunningham is having a fantastic start to her collegiate career.

The freshman starred at the Roy Griak Invitational as she stormed to the individual crown in the Maroon section. She covered the 6k course in 21:44.9, finishing 40.2 seconds ahead of runner-up Mackenzie Hall of Minnesota-Duluth. Cunningham’s time would have placed her among the top-20 in the Women’s Gold section.

This is the second straight victory of the season for Cunningham, as she opened up the season with a win at the Vic Godfrey Open on September 3.

This is the first time in program history an athlete from Winona State has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Elias Lindgren, Williams

Junior | Merion Station, Pennsylvania

Elias Lindgren topped the podium once again at the Purple Valley Classic.

Lindgren, who last won the individual title at the Williams-hosted meet in 2018, ran to victory this past weekend as he covered the 8k tract in 26:09.7. That proved to be a boon for the second-ranked Ephs, who needed every point to hold off a tough challenge from rival sixth-ranked MIT. Williams won the team title by three points, 29-32.

This is the second time in the past three years that a male athlete from Williams has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season (Aidan Ryan picked up the honor back on September 30, 2019, following a victory at the Purple Valley Classic).

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Danielle Page, Tufts

Junior | Gloucester, Massachusetts

Danielle Page took big steps at the Purple Valley Classic over the years.

After finishing 21st as a freshman in 2018 and runner-up as a sophomore in 2019, Page ascended to the top of the podium this past weekend. Page covered the 6k course in 22:41.9, nearly four seconds faster than Genna Girard of Williams, who finished runner-up.

It has been a strong start to the season for Page, who notched back-to-back wins. Page captured the individual title at the Bates Super XC Shootout two weeks ago.

This is the fourth time in the past three years that a female athlete from Tufts has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season (Natalie Bettez was honored twice in 2018; Sabrina Gornisiewicz received laurels in 2019).

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Chris Korir, New Mexico JC

Freshman | Colorado Springs, Colorado

Chris Korir made big strides in three weeks.

As the No. 2 runner for the T-Birds earlier this month at the Texas Tech Open, Korir moved to the top in winning the New Mexico JC Invitational. He clocked 25:20.8 for 8k to win by 11.5 seconds over teammate Evans Pololet, who had team honors three weeks earlier with a 15.8-second margin over Korir.

Korir is the first male athlete to earn this award for cross country for New Mexico JC.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Natalya Babcock, College of Southern Idaho

Freshman | Moore, Idaho

Natalya Babcock is soaring again.

After opening the season as the Golden Eagles’ top woman, Babcock was just CSI’s fourth in the next contest. But in her latest race Babcock not only led all of her teammates but everyone else in the race, winning the Ken Garland Invitational. Her time of 23:19 over 6k gave her the overall victory by 10 seconds.

Babcock is the first athlete from CSI to be named National Athlete of the Week for cross country.

NJCAA DIVISION II MEN – Melvin Kipkemboi, North Iowa Area CC

Sophomore | Rift Valley, Kenya

No JUCO runner has been able to stay close to Melvin Kipkemboi.

The reigning NJCAA Division II national champion, Kipkemboi was fourth in the Roy Griak Invitational’s Maroon race in 25:48.7 over the challenging 8k course. That time gave Kipkemboi the school’s best on the course, breaking a nine-year-old record.

This is the second time Kipkemboi has earned this award as he also claimed it on October 20 last year.

NJCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Harleigh Bilz Crist, Daytona State (Fla.)

Sophomore | Tavares, Florida

Harleigh Bilz Crist held her own at the Embry-Riddle Cross Country Classic.

The sophomore from Tavares, Florida, finished as the top JUCO athlete in a talented field that included athletes from NCAA Division I and NCAA Division II, as well as the NAIA and NJCAA. She crossed the finish line in seventh place with a time of 20:10.5 for the 5k distance.

This is the first time that a female athlete from Daytona State (Fla.) has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Kyle Vinyard, Mineral Area (Mo.) JC

Freshman | Herculaneum, Missouri

Kyle Vinyard is holding the tradition well for Mineral Area.

In his third meet of the year, Vinyard ran 26:32.3 for 8k to finish runner-up in the H.W. Bill Wright Invitational. Vinyard, who finished fourth in last year’s NJCAA Division III Championship, is the leading returner from the Cardinals’ defending national team champions.

Vinyard is the second athlete in program history to earn National Athlete of the Week honors during the cross country season.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Leah Lloyd, Finger Lakes (N.Y.) CC

Freshman | Macedon, New York

Leah Lloyd has given Finger Lakes reason to celebrate.

After a season-opening win at the Steven A. Warde Invitational, Lloyd finished a strong 48th as the top JUCO runner in the Harry F. Anderson Invitational, clocking 20:08.2 for 5k as the Lakers do not have a full team. Athletes from several notable NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III programs were in attendance, too.

This is the first time a female runner from Finger Lakes CC has been named National Athlete of the Week for cross country.