M-F Athletic National Athletes of the Week (Oct. 31)

NEW ORLEANS – It’s getting spooky out there.

Here are our M-F Athletic National Athletes of the Week for October 31, 2022!

  • NCAA Division I Men – Charles Hicks, Stanford
  • NCAA Division I Women – Parker Valby, Florida
  • NCAA Division II Men – Hillary Toroitich, Fayetteville State
  • NCAA Division II Women – Briseidy Balderas, Felician
  • NCAA Division III Men – Joseph Jaster, Case Western Reserve
  • NCAA Division III Women – Mary Kate McGranahan, Amherst
  • NAIA Men – Tyler Jenkins, Rio Grande (Ohio)
  • NAIA Women – Amarissa Kerns, Rio Grande (Ohio)
  • NJCAA Division I Men – Sanele Masondo, Colby (Kan.) CC
  • NJCAA Division I Women – Faith Nyathi, El Paso (Texas)
  • NJCAA Division II Men – Sebastian Hernandez, Daytona State (Fla.)
  • NJCAA Division II Women – Hayley Burns, Coconino (Ariz.)
  • NJCAA Division III Men – Nicholas Keeling, DuPage (Ill.)
  • NJCAA Division III Women – Lillian Buzani, DuPage (Ill.)

Find out more about each of these athletes by 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 14 collegiate cross country athletes, when applicable (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions, the NAIA 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 – Charles Hicks, Stanford

Senior | Jacksonville, Florida

Charles Hicks reigned at the Pac-12 Championships for the second year in a row.

Hicks posted a wire-to-wire, course record-breaking victory this past weekend at the UCR Ag Ops Cross Country Course in Riverside, California. The Stanford standout gapped the strong field between the 5.5k and 7.5k mark – extending his lead from 0.4 seconds to 7.8 seconds in the process – and eventually won by 6.3 seconds in 22:30.9.

The Cardinal, with Hicks leading the way, ran like a team possessed. Hick’s low stick gave Stanford one of its six top-10 finishers at the meet as it dominated a perennially strong conference. The Cardinal amassed just 22 points, the fewest by a team champion since 2002 (Stanford, 19).

This is the second time this season that a male athlete from Stanford has been named National Athlete of the Week. Hicks joins Ky Robinson, who took home national honors on October 17.

NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN – Parker Valby, Florida

Sophomore | Tampa, Florida

Running fast and taking names.

That’s the Parker Valby way in 2022.

Valby romped to another individual title – this time at the SEC Championships, where she blitzed the 6k course in 18:25.9, beating the heralded Mercy Chelangat of Alabama by 7.8 seconds (Chelangat is a two-time defending champion at this meet and finished top-2 at the NCAA Championships in each of the past two seasons, including a national title in 2020). That low stick helped Florida finish fourth, its best finish at the SEC Championships since 2013.

You can say Valby isn’t a stranger to sub-19 performances. Earlier this season, Valby destroyed the course record at the Dale Watts ’71 XC Course in College Station, Texas, with her 18:58.2 and beat former M-F National Athlete of the Week Addie Engel of Ohio State in the process.

This is the first time that a female athlete from Florida has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week since 2019. Valby joins two-time honoree Jessica Pascoe as an honoree.

NCAA DIVISION II MEN — Hillary Toroitich, Fayetteville State

Sophomore | Ainabkoi Rift Valley, Africa

Hillary Toroitich and Fayetteville State steamrolled the conference meet.

Toroitich captured the individual title at the CIAA Cross Country Championships, traversing the 8k course in 24:54.0. He led a 1-2-3 sweep for the Broncos – the first in conference history – as Fayetteville went on to capture its fifth consecutive team crown with 38 points, 35 points fewer than runner-up Shaw (73).

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

NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN — Bri Balderas, Felician

Redshirt Senior | Somerset, New Jersey

History was made at the CACC Cross Country Championships.

Bri Balderas successfully defended her conference crown, completing the 5k course in 20:02.4 to finish 7.7 seconds ahead of teammate Ashley Linares. Behind Balderas’ ultimate low stick, Felician scored 36 points to top the podium for the first time in program history, beating out runner-up Jefferson (Pa.) by six points. The Falcons also became the first women’s team in Felician history to win a conference championship in any sport.

This is the first time in program history an athlete from Felician has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION III MEN – Joseph Jaster, Case Western Reserve

Senior | Macomb, Michigan

Joseph Jaster stepped up this past weekend.

Jaster was one of four men lockstep in the lead at the 6k split of the UAA Championships this past weekend in Hampton, Georgia. By the time the 8k race ended, though, Jaster was first across the finish line, winning by 4.6 seconds in 24:44.5. Jaster’s low stick helped Case Western Reserve take fourth place in the team standings, matching its best finish at this meet since 2008.

It appears as if Jaster is hitting his stride at the right time. Jaster previously finished 19th at the Mike Woods Invitational on October 1 and then took seventh at the Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble two weeks ago. Both of those finishes put him either third or fourth among the other Spartans at those meets.

This is the first time in program history that a male athlete from Case Western Reserve has been named M-F National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Mary Kate McGranahan, Amherst

Senior | New York, New York

Pick the outlier: first, first, first, 16th, first.

Mary Kate McGranahan is back on top of the podium.

McGranahan raced to the individual title at the NESCAC Championships this past weekend, covering the 6k tract in 21:15.3, exactly 16 seconds faster than Genna Girard of Williams. That low stick from McGranahan helped Amherst to its best team finish since 2007 (second).

It has been a year of winning for McGranahan, as this marked her fourth victory of 2022. McGranahan also won at the Wesleyan Cardinal XC Invitational (18:12.6, 5k), the Little Three XC Championship (21:38.8, 6k) and the Purple Valley XC Classic (22:19.4, 6k).

This is the first time since 2017 that a female athlete from Amherst has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. McGranahan joins former NESCAC individual champion Nicky Roberts in that regard.

NAIA MEN – Tyler Jenkins, Rio Grande (Ohio)

Freshman | Barnesville, Ohio

Home-course advantage was real for Tyler Jenkins.

Jenkins, competing at the RedStorm Classic this past weekend, trounced the field in the Men’s 5k on his way to the individual title, winning by nearly 30 seconds in 15:52.6.

That was Jenkins’ third win of the season: Jenkins also took top honors at the Royals XC Challenge Blue Race on October 7 as well as the Patty Forgey Invitational back on September 24.

NAIA WOMEN – Amarissa Kerns, Rio Grande (Ohio)

Freshman | Lancaster, Ohio

The race might have been short, but victory was sweet for Amarissa Kerns.

Kerns couldn’t be caught this past weekend in the Women’s 2 Mile at the RedStorm Classic, as she cruised to the individual title by 24 seconds in 11:59.3.

This was Kerns’ first victory this season, but third top-5 finish: Kerns also placed highly at the Royals XC Challenge on October 7 (fourth) and the Patty Forgey Invitational (second).

NJCAA DIVISION I MEN – Sanele Masondo, Colby (Kan.) CC

Sophomore | Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

Sanele Masondo continued his undefeated season with his closest win of the year – 1.4 seconds – to win the Region VI Championships, which includes seven ranked teams.

This win came over rival Rodgers Rotich of Butler (Kan.) CC – a previous winner of this award – as No. 1 Colby cruised to victory with 23 points behind Masondo’s 23:31.6 winning effort over 8k.

This is Masondo’s third honor as the M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week and is now the fifth male athlete to earn as many in one season.

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

Sophomore | Plumtree, Zimbabwe

Faith Nyathi is clearly getting faster.

The reigning national champion improved her time by 16 seconds on the same course from two weeks ago, this time claiming the Region V Championships title in 17:51.5 for a 38-second victory over Damaris Chewon of New Mexico JC.

Nyathi’s time was also 28 seconds faster on the same course when won the Region V title last year by over a minute.

Chewon, by the way, is a two-time winner of M-F National Athlete of the Week honors this year. Nyathi now also has two in 2022 – just as she did in 2021, giving her a career total of four.

Nyathi is the third female athlete to earn this honor multiple times in two seasons, joining Leanne Pompeani of Iowa Central CC (2015-16) and Faith Linga of Iowa Western CC (2019-20).

NJCAA DIVISION II MEN – Sebastian Hernandez, Daytona State (Fla.)

Sophomore | Wesley Chapel, Florida

Sebastian Hernandez has raced well at Apalachee Regional Park.

He cruised to a 19.3-second victory in the Region VIII Championships, covering 8k in 25:34.5 in leading Daytona State (Fla.) to a team title with 21 points. Earlier this year, he was the leading JUCO runner at the Florida State Invitational on the same course that is the site of this year’s NJCAA Division II Championships on November 12.

Hernandez is the second male athlete from Daytona State to be named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week in cross country, and the Falcons’ first two-time winner.

NJCAA DIVISION II WOMEN – Hayley Burns, Coconino (Ariz.) CC

Freshman | Bozeman, Montana

Hayley Burns made the score 2-1 in her favor among Arizona’s best this year, and that could be the nation’s best.

After an early-September loss to Kate Brockman of Mesa (Ariz.) CC, Burns has been the quicker of the two, earning a second victory at Region I Championships by 7.1 seconds over her rival, who was runner-up in last year’s NJCAA Division II Championships. Burns clocked 18:03.7 for the 5k course.

This is the second time Burns has been honored as M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week in cross country this year. She is the first athlete from Coconino with this award.

NJCAA DIVISION III MEN – Nicholas Keeling, College of DuPage (Ill.)

Freshman | Naperville, Illinois

In the NJCAA Division III’s toughest region, no one was better than Nicholas Keeling.

Three top-4 teams went toe-to-toe in the loaded Region IV Championships, but Keeling won individual honors by well over a minute in 26:11.5 for 8k as the Chaps also won a hard-fought team crown.

This is Keeling’s third time this year as the M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week. He is the only male athlete from DuPage to earn this honor in cross country and the first three-time male winner of this award since 2020.

NJCAA DIVISION III WOMEN – Lillian Buzani, College of DuPage (Ill.)

Sophomore | Carol Stream, Illinois

Lillian Buzani ran her best race so far.

Lined up against a three-time M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week honoree in Lilly Alberts of rival Harper (Ill.), Buzani won the Region IV Championships by 19.2 seconds with a time of 20:18.5 for 5k.

Buzani, who was seventh in last year’s NJCAA Division III Championships, also defeated two other runners who beat her last year in the nationals.

Buzani is the first female athlete from DuPage to be named M-F National Athlete of the Week in cross country.