NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (Nov. 1)

NEW ORLEANS – Here are the NCAA Cross Country and NJCAA Cross Country National Athletes of the Week for Monday, November 1, 2021!

Conference Championships Weekend among the NCAA Division I and NCAA Division III ranks and Regional Championships Weekend in NJCAA meant some tough decisions.

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.

NCAA DIVISION I MEN – Simon Bedard, Butler

Graduate Student | Malestroit, France

Simon Bedard and Butler proved that every Bulldog has its day this past weekend.

Bedard and Haftu Strintzos of Villanova broke away from the pack late at the BIG EAST Championships and Bedard ultimately outkicked Strintzos to the finish line by less than one second for the 23:58.6 victory. That low stick propelled unranked Butler to the team title, taking down three teams who were included in the most recent National Coaches’ Poll in some fashion: No. 24 Villanova, No. 27 Georgetown, RV Providence.

It was a breakthrough win for Bedard, who finished 39th at the Joe Piane Invitational on October 1 and 62nd at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on October 15. He has a strong history at the BIG EAST Championships, taking seventh in 2019 and third this past February.

This is the second time in program history that an athlete from Butler has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Erik Peterson previously earned the honor back on September 28, 2015.

co-NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Megan Hasz, Minnesota

Graduate Student | Alexandria, Minnesota

Megan Hasz and Erica VanderLende.

Erica VanderLende and Megan Hasz.

Who was it going to be!?

If you see the name up top, then you already know.

Minnesota’s Hasz surged ahead in the final few meters to win the women’s individual title on a rain-soaked day at the Big Ten Championships this past weekend by less than one second over Michigan’s VanderLende, 20:34.5 to 20:35.3. Not only that, but Hasz’s low stick guided the Golden Gophers to their first conference title since they went back-to-back in 2007 and 2008.

This is the second time in program history that an athlete from Minnesota has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. You wouldn’t believe who earned the first honor in program history: Bethany Hasz, Megan’s twin sister, on February 3, 2021.

co-NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Abby Nichols, Colorado

Senior | Kettering, Ohio

The final 1k meant “Go” for Abby Nichols this past weekend.

Nichols, lockstep with teammate Emily Covert and Utah’s Emily Venters at 4k, dropped both on her way to the individual title at the Pac-12 Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah. She covered the 6k tract in 20:25.4, which was 11 seconds faster than eventual runner-up Covert.

It has been a breakout season for Nichols, who previously earned an individual title at the FSU Invite/Pre-Nats on October 15 and finished fifth at the Cowboy Jamboree in September.

This is the second time in program history that a female athlete from Colorado has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Dani Jones previously earned the honor on October 30, 2017, following her own victory at the Pac-12 Championships.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Alex Phillip, John Carroll

Sophomore | Akron, Ohio

On a rain-soaked and sloppy course in Wilmington, Ohio, Phillip ran to the individual title at the OAC Championships in a course record 24:07.8. Phillip lowered the 10-year-old all-time course best by 27 seconds and won the individual title on Saturday by 47 seconds.

More importantly, Phillip led John Carroll to its first conference title in program history. The sixth-ranked Blue Streaks beat No. 12 Otterbein, 25-52.

This is the third time this season that Phillip has been named National Athlete of the Week. Phillip previously earned the honor on September 20 and October 4.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Kassie Parker, Loras

Senior | Guttenberg, Iowa

Kassie Parker, formerly Rosenbum, finally topped the podium at the American Rivers Conference Cross Country Championships.

After finishing runner-up the past two years and third the year before that, Parker left no doubt this past weekend. Parker rolled to an emphatic, one-minute, 16.5-second victory in 20:43.0. She led by 11.3 seconds at the 1.5k split and extended that as much as 1:18.6 by the 5k mark.

Parker has put together a marvelous season, winning four out of the five meets in which she competed. What about that other meet? Well, that was the National Catholic Invitational hosted by Notre Dame, where she finished sixth in an NCAA Division I-heavy field.

This is the third time this season and fifth time in her career that Parker has been named National Athlete of the Week. Parker previously earned the honor on September 13 and October 18 this year as well as September 29 and October 27 in 2020.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Vincent Nchogu, Northwest Kansas Tech

Freshman | Keumbu Kisii, Kenya

Vincent Nchogu found the right gear at the right time.

With 2k to go in the Region VI Championships, Nchogu was in third place as Dennis Mutai of Garden City had a leading margin of more than four seconds and wasn’t letting up. Nchogu made up the deficit and more to win the 8k race by 3.1 seconds in 24:03.9. The victory kept Nchogu undefeated this year against JUCO runners.

This is Nchogu’s second time as National Athlete of the Week this fall, and he is the only Maverick to achieved this distinction.

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Mercy Biwott, Iowa Western CC

Freshman | Eldoret, Kenya

Once again, Mercy Biwott made it look easy.

Biwott continued her dominant season by taking the Region XI Championships title by winning the 5k race in 17:19.4, 42.4 seconds ahead of her nearest pursuer. The result was similar for Biwott, who has finished as the top JUCO runner in all four of her races this fall.

This is Biwott’s second time this year being named National Athlete of the Week in cross country. The only other Reiver to earn this award more than once is Faith Linga, a two-time NJCAA Division I champ.

NJCAA DIVISION II MEN – Coleman Clark, Grand Rapids (Mich.) CC

Freshman | Carson City, Michigan

Coleman Clark’s venture to rival Lansing CC for the Region XII Championship brought made a nice memory – his first collegiate victory there.

Clark made it two for two on the Grand Woods Park course, winning the 8k individual title in 25:56.5 – almost 30 seconds faster than he ran to win the Lansing Invitational on Oct. 1. Clark’s company was also familiar, as teammate Joshua Kipkoech completed a 1-2 finish for the Raiders.

Clark is the first athlete from Grand Rapids to be named National Athlete of the Week in cross country.

NJCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Haley Ellis, Lansing (Mich.) CC

Freshman | Leslie, Michigan

Haley Ellis was smiling after finishing the Region XII Championships race.

It wasn’t just because she won the 6k contest in 19:18.7. Adding more jubilation was seeing teammates Angela Jaycox and Kayla Crawford as the Stars went 1-2-3 in winning the team title with 19 points. Ellis has led No. 2-ranked Lansing all season, finishing as the top JUCO runner in all four of her races.

This is the second time Ellis has been named National Athlete of the Week this year. She is the only man or woman from Lansing to earn this award.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Hunter Phillips, Joliet (Ill.) JC

Freshman | Shorewood, Illinois

Hunter Phillips knew his team needed a strong race from him. He ran his best race of the year.

The No. 2-ranked Wolves, battling injury issues, were in for a fight from No. 3 College of DuPage. Phillips made sure the low stick came from Joliet, winning the 8k individual title by over a minute in 25:48 to become the Wolves’ first-ever male champion. DuPage earned the team crown, 33-37, setting up a rematch at the upcoming NJCAA Division III Championships in Milledgeville, Georgia on Saturday, November 13.

This is the second time this year that Phillips has been named National Athlete of the Week.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Tiffany Lehmann, Joliet (Ill.) JC

Sophomore | Joliet, Illinois

Tiffany Lehmann won something for the first time.

That’s saying something for the reigning NJCAA Division III cross country champion who hasn’t lost a cross country race to another DIII runner in her two-year career. What was missing? A Region IV crown, as the meet wasn’t held last year. Lehmann added that honor by clocking 19:36 for 5k, even beating the region’s top NJCAA Division II runners.

This is the second time this year that Lehmann has been named National Athlete of the Week for cross country. It is also her seventh such honor overall, breaking a tie with Ali Gutt of Harper (Ill.) for the most by a woman in the NJCAA Division III history of the award.