First National Athletes Of The Week For 2016 XC Season
NEW ORLEANS — Cross country is back and that means National Athletes of the Week!
For the first time this season, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) honors those athletes in all three NCAA divisions and both NJCAA divisions that stood out from the competition during the previous week and/or weekend.
Male winners were Florida State’s Harry Mulenga (NCAA Division I), Missouri Southern’s Vincent Kiprop (NCAA Division II), Gordon’s Damon Kilgore (NCAA Division III), North Iowa Area CC’s Wal Khat (NJCAA Division I) and Suffolk CC’s Ryan Evans (NJCAA Division III).
Female winners were UMass Amherst’s Heather MacLean (NCAA Division I), Stonehill’s Nicole Borofski (NCAA Division II), Cornell College’s Abrah Masterson (NCAA Division III), Barton County CC’s Mirena Goncalves (NJCAA Division I) and Bergen CC’s Justine Conca (NJCAA Division III).
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 six collegiate cross country athletes (male and female for each of the three NCAA 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.
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.
After sitting out the outdoor track & field season, Harry Mulenga is back at full force on the cross country course.
This past weekend at the Covered Bridge Cross Country Meet hosted by Appalachian State, Mulenga beat a field of 105 runners by nearly seven seconds. Mulenga crossed the finish line of the 6400-meter course in 20:04.5.
Last year Mulenga competed four times, culminating at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. He’ll return to the grass at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational on September 30.
Heather MacLean made the most of her season opener.
Running at the Spider Alumni Open, hosted by Richmond, MacLean notched a near three-second win over the competition, which included NCAA Division I Outdoor All-American Regan Rome of William & Mary. Rome finished second in 10:38.2 to MacLean’s 10:35.7 over the two-mile course.
MacLean is no slouch either, having taken ninth in the mile at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships this past March.
When MacLean got on the course for the first time last year, she finished 85th at the Coast to Coast Battle in Beantown.
After a freshman campaign that included a national runner-up finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships and a national outdoor title at 10,000 meters on the track, Vincent Kiprop entered this fall as a preseason national title favorite. His opening race confirmed that status.
Running a 4.81 mile course at Southwest Baptist, the sophomore decimated the next-best runner by nearly 50 seconds, cruising across the line in 23:08.2. He’ll likely be back in action again in two weeks on his home course – the site of his national breakout a year ago – for the Southern Stampede.
Nicole Borofski set the tone early in 2016 that she will be once again be the woman to beat in the Northeast-10 and the East Region. The senior covered 5K on Stonehill’s difficult course in 18:04.8 to win the Skyhawk Invitational by 23 seconds over Assumption’s Antonia Pagliuca and 42 seconds over third-place Pascaline Jerotich of American International.
Pagliuca was the outdoor Northeast-10 champion at 10,000 meters this past spring, while Jerotich was the Northeast-10 runner-up behind Borofski at 5000 on the track.
There is something about running at the Roger Williams Invitational that agrees with Damon Kilgore.
For the second consecutive year, Kilgore set a course record in Bristol, Rhode Island. This year Kilgore finished in 15:34.56, 38 seconds better than the previous mark he set in 2015. Kilgore ended up winning the meet by 36 seconds.
This was the fourth win on the cross country course of Kilgore’s career.
The defending individual women’s champion in NCAA Division III got her season off to a fast start in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the 23rd Annual Mustang Gallop.
Abrah Masterson rolled to a 23-second win over Fabiola Ortiz of Dubuque. Masterson crossed the finish line in 14:27 in the only 4K race in her cross country career.
The senior from Granby, Colorado put together quite the outdoor season, finishing second in the 10,000 (36:16.87) and fourth in the 5,000 (16:54.33).
Masterson will look to defend her NCAA title come November in Louisville, Kentucky.
In what was one of the biggest races of the weekend with nearly 300 entrants, Wal Khat finished third overall in the Augustana (Ill.) Augie Twilight. He covered the four-mile course in 18:58.7, just over 10 seconds behind winner Jacob Olson of Nebraska.
Mirena Goncalves took the individual title at the Hutchinson CC Terry Masterson Twilight Classic. In her debut race for the Cougars, she ran 18:11.6 on the three-mile course for a seven-second win over NCAA DII Emporia State’s Emily Schoenfeld.
After finishing sixth over 5000 meters at the NJCAA DIII Outdoor Championships to close his freshman campaign, Ryan Evans started strong this weekend with a seventh-place effort at the Baruch College Invitational. He ran 30:21.6 over 8K as the top NJCAA finisher.
Justine Conca started her inaugural collegiate campaign off on the right foot. Running at the Ramapo College XC Season Opener, Conca finished runner-up in the 5K race in 20:54.0 by edging out D’liyah Brown of Bloomfield at the line.