NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (October 18)

NEW ORLEANS – An exciting weekend of racing meant some difficult decisions.

Here are the NCAA Cross Country and NJCAA Cross Country National Athletes of the Week for Monday, October 18, 2021!

Find out more about each of these athletes by clicking their names 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.

co-NCAA DIVISION I MEN – Wesley Kiptoo, Iowa State

Junior | Marakwet, Kenya

Wesley Kiptoo appears to have refined his race tactics.

That means the rest of the nation needs to be on their toes.

Kiptoo, competing against a plethora of All-Americans from the spring, surged ahead after the 1k mark of the Men’s 8k Championship at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational this past weekend. No one could keep up as Kiptoo extended his lead to as much as 19.9 seconds at the 6k split and won by nearly 10 seconds in 23:11.2 over Cooper Teare of Oregon. That was the second fastest winning time in meet history behind Lawi Lalang’s 23:02.4 clocking back in 2012.

Behind Kiptoo’s low stick, No. 6 Iowa State captured the team title over 17 other nationally-ranked programs in Madison, Wisconsin.

This is the seventh time since 2019 that Kiptoo has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Kiptoo was honored four times in 2019 when he competed for Colby (Kan.) CC and then twice last year after transferring to Iowa State.

co-NCAA DIVISION I MEN – Conner Mantz, BYU

Senior | Smithfield, Utah

In a battle of unbeatens, Conner Mantz emerged victorious.

Mantz, who won at the Roy Griak Invitational three weeks ago and at the BYU Autumn Classic to begin the season, added an individual title at the FSU Invite/Pre-Nats to his resume this past weekend in Tallahassee, Florida. The reigning individual champion at the NCAA DI Cross Country Championships set a course record in the process, covering the 8k tract at the Apalachee Regional Park in 22:47.0, as five men cracked the 23-minute barrier.

He and Adriaan Wildschutt of Florida State, the other undefeated headliner in the race, went stride for stride for most of the final 1k before Mantz pulled away on the downhill finish.

This is the second time this season that Mantz has been named National Athlete of the Week. Mantz previously earned the honor following his thrilling win at the Roy Griak Invitational.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Ceili McCabe, West Virginia

Junior | Vancouver, British Columbia

Ceili McCabe’s breakout season continues.

McCabe, who won at the Live in the Lou Cross Country Classic three weeks ago, pulled away to win the individual title at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational this past weekend in 19:57.4. She was lockstep with Kelsey Chimel of NC State at the bottom of the final hill at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course, but used a strong finishing kick to win by 2.8 seconds.

This is the first time since at least 2013 that an athlete from West Virginia has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Innocent Murwanashyaka, West Texas A&M

Junior | St. Paul, Minnesota

Innocent Murwanashyaka continues to shine for the Buffs.

Murwanashyaka won the individual crown at the ASU Blue & Gold Classic, navigating the 8k course in 24:35.9 and finishing more than 27 seconds ahead of the runner-up. His winning time this past weekend was also more than 28 seconds faster than his runner-up performance on the same course at the 2020 Lone Star Conference Cross Country Championships.

Murwanashyaka led the Buffs to a clean sweep of the top-7 spots to win the meet with 15 points.

This is the first in program history a male athlete from West Texas A&M has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Cherise Carreira, Queens (N.C.)

Freshman | East London, South Africa

Cherise Carreira is having a strong freshman campaign.

Carreira ran to a third-place finish at the Upstate Invitational, finishing behind two NCAA Division I Furman athletes. The freshman traversed the 5k course in 18:04.8 to be the first NCAA DII athlete across the line. It was the third top-3 finish of her young career, placing third at the Queen City Invite to open up the season and second in the Blue race at the Royals XC Challenge a few weeks ago.

This is the third time in program history a female athlete has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. The only other Royal to do so was Hannah Wolkenhauer, who was a two-time recipient on September 18, 2017 and September 16, 2019.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Joe Freiburger, Wartburg

Senior | Holy Cross, Iowa

Joe Freiburger and his Wartburg teammates made a statement on Saturday.

The road to either title at the upcoming NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships goes through them after their wins at the Augustana Interregional Invitational this past weekend.

Freiburger led a 1-2 finish by the Knights, as he covered the 8k tract in 24:16.8. Christopher Collet finished runner-up in 24:21.4 to give Wartburg some extra breathing room in the team standings, which proved pivotal as the No. 1 team in the nation held off a strong challenge from second-ranked defending champion Pomona-Pitzer and a host of other top-35 programs.

This is the fifth time in the past two years that Freiburger has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Freiburger was a regular honoree last year, as he took national honors home on September 29, October 13, October 27 and November 10.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Kassie Rosenbum, Loras

Senior | Guttenberg, Iowa

Fast is fast: division doesn’t matter.

Kassie Rosenbum proved that this past weekend at the Lewis & Clark Invite.

Rosenbum cruised to the individual title at Milo McIver State Park, covering the 6k tract in 20:10.9, nearly 17 seconds ahead of the next closest competitor. Also in the field, in addition to several NCAA Division I athletes from storied programs, were former National Athlete of the Week Clara Mayfield of Carleton and Fiona Smith of St. Benedict, who won the individual title at the UW-Eau Claire Blugold Invitational two weeks ago.

This is the second time this season that Rosenbum has been named National Athlete of the Week. Rosenbum previously earned the honor on September 13.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Adams Biwott, El Paso (Texas) CC

Freshman | Kenya

Adams Biwott completed the 3-2-1 countdown in a big way.

Biwott won the New Mexico JC II Invitational by 26.4 seconds, covering the 8k course in 24:23.6. It was his first victory of the year after starting off with a 3rd in the Lori Fitzgerald Memorial on September 18 and runner-up finish in the New Mexico Highlands Jam two weeks ago.

Biwott is the first man from El Paso to be named National Athlete of the Week in cross country.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Faith Nyathi, El Paso (Texas) CC

Freshman | Plumtree, Zimbabwe

Faith Nyathi is at it again, which means another huge victory.

Nyathi easily captured the individual title in the New Mexico JC II Invitational, running away to a victory by 1:21.8 after an 18:04.5 time over 5k. The margin was just short of the 1:24.5 she had in winning the New Mexico Highlands Jam two weeks ago.

This is the second time this year that Nyathi has earned the National Athlete of the Week award, and she is the first Tejana with multiple honors in cross country.

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

Sophomore | Rift Valley, Kenya

Melvin Kipkemboi continues to rack up impressive finishes.

The latest came at the Indian Hills Invitational, where the defending NJCAA Division II champion finished second in 24:50.4, his fastest time ever for 8k. He was the highest-finishing JC DII runner by 1:58.2.

This is the second time this year – and third overall – that Kipkemboi has been named National Athlete of the Week.

NJCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Sarah Bertry, North Iowa Area CC

Sophomore | Boyde, France

Sarah Bertry is returning to form.

A week after winning the Trent Smith Invitational, Bertry was runner-up at the Indian Hills Invitational and finished as the top NJCAA Division II runner with a time of 18:58.8 for 5k. She was second in last year’s NJCAA Division II Championships.

This is the third time Bertry has earned this award after being selected twice last year.

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

Freshman | Herculaneum, Missouri

Kyle Vinyard aims to keep Mineral Area No. 1.

Vinyard is doing his part as the top runner for the Cardinals, the two-time defending NJCAA Division III champions. At the Greenville Classic, Vinyard was third with a clocking of 26:41.1 for 8k that had him as the top JUCO runner regardless of division as five ranked squads from NJCAA Division II and III raced together.

Vinyard has been named National Athlete of the Week twice this year to become the second man from Mineral Area with multiple such honors in cross country.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Julia Danko, Oxford (Ga.)

Sophomore | Worcester, Massachusetts

Julia Danko continues to be impactful regardless of division.

She is now 2-for-2 finishing as the top JUCO runner regardless of division, most recently with a 7th-place in the Berry Invitational after covering the 6k course in 23:50.3. Oxford’s team, ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division III, finished ahead of NJCAA DII No. 4 Wallace State (Ala.), 143 to 152.

Danko is the third Oxford woman to earn this award multiple times after being so honored earlier this year.