NCAA & NJCAA XC National Athletes of the Week (Oct. 13)

NEW ORLEANS – The fall cross country segment is about to enter its final month.

That doesn’t mean the competition is cooling off. Not by a long shot.

Here are those 12 athletes who 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 I MEN – Rohann Asfaw, Virginia

Senior | Rockville, Maryland

Two races. Two wins. Two national honors.

Rohann Asfaw keeps rolling along.

Asfaw picked up his second victory of the season this past Wednesday at the Wolfpack Invitational, crossing the finish line first after covering the 8K tract in 23:32.5. He finished 2.5 seconds ahead of JP Flavin of NC State, who most recently placed second at the Virginia Tech Invitational and was an All-Region honoree when he competed for Dayton.

The ultimate low stick by Asfaw provided a spark for Virginia, which won its second consecutive team title. The Cavaliers warded off a 2-3-4 finish by NC State to win by three points, 28-31.

Asfaw is just the third male runner in the past five years to be named NCAA Division I National Athlete of the Week twice in a season. He joins Edwin Kurgat (2019) and Justyn Knight (2016).

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Dominique Clairmonte, NC State

Senior | Lexington, Ohio

Dominique Clairmonte made quick work of the Wolfpack Invitational this past weekend.

Clairmonte ran alongside teammate Hannah Steelman for most of the race, like she did two weeks ago at the Virginia Tech Invitational. But this time it wasn’t Steelman who pulled away: It was Clairmonte who put seven seconds between the two runners and broke the tape in 16:56.4.

That 1-2 finish by Clairmonte and Steelman propelled NC State to a 24-49 victory over in-state rival North Carolina. Former National Athlete of the Week Sasha Neglia paced the Tar Heels with a third-place finish, some 30 seconds behind Clairmonte.

This is the first time since 2015 that an athlete from NC State has been named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Ryen Frazier earned it twice five years ago.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN – Joshua Chepkesir, UNC Pembroke

Junior | Eldoret, Kenya

When Joshua Chepkesir wins, he wins big.

Such was the case this past weekend at the Royals Challenge.

Chepkesir navigated the 7.4K course in 22:30.0, more than one minute faster than runner-up Moses Dirane of Montreat, who was a four-time NJCAA National Athlete of the Week when he was at Cloud County (Kan.) CC and last year’s NAIA champion in the 1000 meters. Finishing third in the race was Tim Thacker of Milligan, the NAIA runner-up in the mile last year.

Dating back to last year, Chepkesir has posted a 5-1 record and won each race by an average margin of victory by 40.2 seconds. He finished eighth at the 2019 NCAA DII Championships.

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

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Brianna Robles, Adams State

Sophomore | Palmview, Texas

Brianna Robles earned her first career win.

Robles, a sophomore from Palview, Texas, won the Colorado Mesa Maverick Invitational to lead the Grizzlies to a team title. She crossed the 5K finish in 17:32.0, finishing 10 seconds ahead of second place and 20 seconds ahead of teammate Stephanie Cotter, the NCAA DII National Champion a year ago.

This is the fourth time a female athlete from Adams State has been named National Athlete of the Week.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Joe Freiburger, Wartburg

Senior | Holy Cross, Iowa

Through 5K of this past weekend’s 8K race at the Dan Huston Triangular, Joe Freiburger ran in a pack with five other athletes – including four of his teammates, on his home course.

Over the final 3K, though, Freiburger picked up the pace and eventually ran alone. Freiburger crossed the finish line in 24:42.7 to break a one-year-old Max Cross Country Course record (Here’s a fun fact: Thirty-seven years ago, the record was held by Dan Huston, himself).

Wartburg had the first three finishers and two of the next three as it stayed unbeaten with a 17-57 victory over Simpson. The Knights scored a perfect 15 points at two previous meets.

This is the second time this season that Freiburger has been named National Athlete of the Week. Freiburger is the first male athlete at the NCAA Division III level to earn multiple honors in a season since Dhruvil Patel of North Central (Ill.) did so in 2018.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Aubrie Fisher, Wartburg

Sophomore | Ackley, Iowa

No female athlete has ever run faster over the 6K tract at Max Cross Country Course than Aubrie Fisher this past weekend.

Fisher broke a 10-year-old course record at the Dan Huston Invitational when she crossed the finish line in 21:32.8, nearly 10 seconds faster than teammate Carina Collet, who won the individual title at the A-R-C Championships last year and finished second in the Central Region.

Three more Wartburg athletes finished behind Fisher and Collet in third, fourth and fifth, as the squad swept the proceedings for the second time in the past three meets.

This is the first time that a female athlete from Wartburg has been named National Athlete of the Week since 2017 when Ashlyn Bagge earned the honor on September 11.

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Pur Biel, Iowa Central CC

Sophomore | Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pur Biel is adding to Iowa Central CC’s legacy.

Running in one of the deepest fields of the season to date, Biel finished second out of 224 runners at the NAIA Seminole Valley Stampede. He crossed the finish line in 24:53.0, just 9.3 seconds behind individual champion Adrien Gentie of Huntington (Ind.). If Biel ran his time from today at each of the past two iterations of this meet, he would have won each time out.

Biel is the seventh male athlete from Iowa Central CC to be named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. He joins Kelvin Bungei (2020), Awet Yohannes (2019), Ezekiel Kipchirchir (2018), Karim Achengli (2017), Omer Almong (2016) and Andrew Ronoh (2015).

NJCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Eleonora Curtabbi, Iowa Central CC

Sophomore | Elmese, Italy

Sooner or later, Eleonora Curtabbi is going to pick up a win.

For now, Curtabbi will have to settle for being National Athlete of the Week.

For the fourth meet in a row, Curtabbi finished runner-up. This time it was at the NAIA Seminole Valley Stampede, where she crossed the finish line in 17:41.4, second individually out of 217 runners and 22 seconds clear of the third-place athlete.

Curtabbi is the fifth female athlete from Iowa Central CC to be named National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. She joins Winrose Chesang (2018 & 2019), Abeba Sullivan (2018), Adva Cohen (2017) and Leanne Pompeani (2015 & 2016).

NJCAA DIVISION II MEN – Sam Mickelson, Hawkeye (Iowa) CC

Sophomore | East Dubuque, Iowa

Sam Mickelson found himself surrounded by a sea of blue and gold this past weekend.

The only way past was through – and ultimately, that meant Mickelson ran alone, all the way across the finish line for his second victory this season. Mickelson posted a 26:17.1 mark over the 8K course at the Trent Smith Invitational hosted by North Iowa Area CC.

That sea of runners Mickelson did battle with throughout the race were the host Trojans. NIACC finished 2-3-4-5-6 for the team title with former National Athlete of the Week Jorge Ruiz in third.

This is the second time this season that Mickelson has been named National Athlete of the Week.

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

Freshman | Boyde, France

Not much can slow down Sarah Bertry right now.

Running on her home course at the Trent Smith Invitational, Bertry picked up her second win of the season and became the first North Iowa Area CC female athlete to win its home meet in the process. Bertry covered the 5K tract in 19:31.6, crossing the finish line more than one minute ahead of Josie Stackis of NJCAA Division I Iowa Central CC.

This is the second time this season that Bertry has been named National Athlete of the Week.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Donovan Denslow, Mineral Area (Mo.)

Sophomore | Clarksville, Missouri

Donovan Denslow continues to prove his mettle.

This past weekend at the Border XC Championships, Denslow finished runner-up against a number of athletes from four-year programs, covering the 8K tract in 27:47.8. He was the top finisher from NJCAA Division III by a full minute and beat last year’s NJCAA Division III champion Edwin Kipainoi – who has since transferred to a four-year school – by 45 seconds.

Denslow was also named National Athlete of the Week on September 29.

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

Freshman | Joliet, Illinois

Tiffany Lehmann hung tough against athletes from several divisions.

Lehmann finished seventh overall at the Heartland XC Invitational this past weekend, covering the 5K tract in 20:54.0. She was the top-finishing NJCAA Division III athlete by 52 seconds.

This is the third time this season that Lehmann has been named National Athlete of the Week. Only Ali Gutt of Harper (Ill.) JC in 2016 (five) and Alexandra Smith of Suffolk (N.Y.) CC in 2019 (four) have earned more seasonal honors.