M-F Athletic’s National Athletes of the Week - September 18, 2023
National Athlete of the Week is an award selected and presented by the USTFCCCA Communications Staff at the beginning of each week to multiple collegiate Track and Field athletes, when applicable (male and female for each of the three NCAA divisions, the National Junior College divisions, and the NAIA).
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.
Ryan Kinnane, Auburn
Senior | Wichita, Kansas
Ryan Kinnane made his move and didn’t look back. Kinnane, competing at The Southern Showcase in Huntsville, Alabama, gradually pulled away from the pack on the way to a near-eight-second victory. The Auburn standout sat fifth through 1.6k, moved up to second at 4.6k, then shot into the lead and eventually won in 23:19.9. Auburn is hoping to see continued success from Kinnane, who had a strong junior year on the grass circuit last year. Kinnane finished 11th at the SEC Championships and then placed seventh at the ensuing South Region Championships, held on the same course as this past weekend. This is the first time in program history that a male athlete from Auburn has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.
Katie Osika, Michigan State
Grad Student | Waterford, Michigan
Katie Osika started her final year at Michigan State with a win. Osika cruised to the individual title at the Auto-Owners Spartan Invitational this past weekend, besting a talented field by nearly eight seconds. The grad student crossed the finish line in 20:54.3 ahead of several athletes who earned All-America honors during the 2022 cross country season, including two top-10 finishers in Lauren Kiley of NCAA DII Grand Valley State and Anastasia Tucker of Grand Valley State (Tucker formerly competed at NCAA DIII Hope College). The Michigan State standout finished runner-up at this meet last year and then would have a strong campaign, highlighted by an All-American effort at the NCAA Championships. She also finished runner-up at the Big Ten Championships and third in the Great Lakes Region. This is just the second time in program history that a female athlete from Michigan State has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. The last time it happened was eight years ago when Rachele Schulist was honored on September 8.
Noah Fisher, Findlay
Senior | Defiance, Ohio
In a field that featured more than 450 runners this past Saturday, Noah Fisher emerged victorious. The University of Findlay product took home the win at the All Ohio Intercollegiate XC Challenge in 24:14.3, the third fastest time to date on the Elvin R. King Cross Country Course. Fisher found plenty of company at the front of the pack as he battled a trio of 2022 NCAA DII All-Americans: Jordan Foster, Evan Leist, and Mitchell Dunham. Eventually, the former G-MAC Runner of the Year pulled away and gapped the competition by 14 seconds. This is the first time in program history that an athlete from Findlay University has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.
Sarah Koomson, West Texas A&M
Freshman | Adom Banso, Ghana
Sarah Koomson is undeterred by NCAA Division I competition. The freshman from West Texas A&M ran 21:50 at the Texas Tech Open, conquering athletes from programs such as Oklahoma and UTEP. As an international addition from Ghana, Koomson was a bit of a mystery entering the season. It’s safe to say now that the Lady Buff answered any early questions, leading the 6k from the gun to the finish line. Perhaps the most illustrious detail was the 43 seconds of separation to Ruth Jerubet, who won the individual title at the Conference USA Championships last year. This is the second time that a female athlete from West Texas A&M has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Koomson joins two time honoree Florence Uwajeneza who laid claim to national weekly honors on November 3, 2020 and September 20, 2021.
Will Kelly, St. Olaf
Junior | Golf, Illinois
Will Kelly made history. Kelly, competing at the 52nd edition of the St. Olaf Invitational, romped to victory and set a course record in the process. The St. Olaf junior, who led from the 3k split onward, won by nearly 30 seconds in 24:47.3 – a five-second improvement on the nine-year-old course record. Speaking of the course record, that was clocked by none other than former St. Olaf standout Grant Wintheiser during the same season in which he’d win the NCAA individual title. Continued success could be in the cards for Kelly, based off recent form. Kelly entered the season off a year on the track where he set numerous PRs from 800 meters to 5000 meters. This is the third time in program history that a male athlete from St. Olaf has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Kelly joins Wintheiser (October 6, 2014) and Jake Campbell (September 21, 2015) in that regard for the Oles.
Fiona Smith, Saint Benedict
Senior | Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Fiona Smith is making it look easy two meets into the 2023 season. Smith posted back-to-back victories to begin the fall campaign, winning by an average of one minute, 45 seconds. Read that again: one minute, 45 seconds. Her first victory came at the Toni St. Pierre Invitational back on September 8, followed by a dominant showing at the Running of the Cows this past weekend, where she won by nearly one minute, 30 seconds in 20:12.7. The Saint Benedict standout shattered her own course record this past weekend and topped a talented field that included at least three athletes who earned All-America honors in 2022. This is the second year in a row that Smith has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season. Smith previously earned national weekly honors on September 26, 2022.
Kent Yoder, Huntington (Ind.)
Grad Student | Shipshewana, Indiana
Kent Yoder made quick work of the Larry Young XC Invitational. Yoder, a senior at Huntington (Ind.), cruised to a near-eight-second victory at the meet hosted by Columbia College. It was the first collegiate win on the grass circuit for the Forester. Earlier in the season, Yoder finished 14th at the IWU Wildcat Twilight Invitational. He is coming off a track season where he finished seventh in the 10,000 meters at the NAIA Championships. This is the first time in program history that a male athlete from Huntington (Ind.) has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.
Audrey Brinkruff, Taylor (Ind.)
Junior | Greenfield, Indiana
Audrey Brinkruff earned the first win of her collegiate career. Brinkruff, competing on her home course at the TU XC Farm, was credited with the victory at the Ray Bullock Invitational when she crossed the finish line simultaneously with two other teammates at 22:19.9. That was part of a 1-2-3-4 finish for the NAIA defending champion Trojans, who cruised to a 36-point victory over 2022 podium finisher St. Francis (Ill.). This is the first time in program history that a female athlete from Taylor (Ind.) has been named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week during the cross country season.
Kgadi Monyebodi, Colby (Kan.) CC
Sophomore | Bochum, South Africa
Kgadi Monyebodi made his first cross country race of the year special – he won it. It wasn’t just any victory. Monyebodi’s win at the Woody Greeno/Jay Dirksen Invitational was the first collegiate harrier title of his career. He covered the 8K course at Nebraska’s Mahoney Golf Course in 23:31.7, 4.8 seconds up on his nearest pursuer. Monyebodi is in good company as Colby’s third male athlete to be named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week – the other two were on their way to NJCAA Division I cross country titles (Wesley Banguria 2019, Sanele Masondo 2022).
Khloi Bird, Butler (Kan.) CC
Sophomore | Topeka, Kansas
Khloi Bird knows how to win – especially at the Missouri Southern Stampede. A second-straight decisive victory in the meet’s College/JUCO race makes one wonder which was better. Last year’s was faster on the Tom Rutledge Cross Country Course’s 5k tract (18:30.8 vs. 18:41.6), but her winning margin this year was larger (27.2 vs. 16.3 seconds). This year’s result also helped the Grizzlies finish higher as a team – second, only after losing a tiebreaker to rival Hutchinson (Kan.) CC as both squads tallied 52 points. This is Bird’s second time earning the M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week award after becoming Butler’s first female to be so honored in cross country last year.
Kyler Dean, Muskegon (Mich.) CC
Sophomore | Vicksburg, Michigan
Kyler Dean was the highest-finishing JUCO runner at the Spartan Invitational, finishing 48th among a field of over 200 starters, most of whom represented four-year institutions. He covered the 5K tract at Michigan State’s Forest Akers East Golf Course in 25:56.2, more than three minutes ahead of the next-best JUCO runner. This is the second time Dean has been named as the M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week; he also won the award last fall when he became Muskegon’s first athlete to earn this honor in cross country.
Olivia Ippel, Lake Michigan
Freshman | St. Joseph, Michigan
Two races, two wins, two course records – and two M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week awards. That sums up Olivia Ippel’s fall thus far. Ippel captured Grand Rapids (Mich.) CC’s Raider Invitational with a time of 18:41.7 for 5K, winning by 6.3 seconds. Ippel’s latest honor is icing on the cake – after last week’s honor, she was already the first male or female athlete from Lake Michigan to be named M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week in cross country.
Oliver Campbell, Oxford (Ga.)
It was a strong seasonal opener for Oliver Campbell at the Point Invitational. Campbell was the top JUCO runner – and third collegian – in finishing fourth in 28:06.5 for 8K in Valley, Alabama, near the Alabama/Georgia border. He is the first male athlete from Oxford to earn M-F Athletic National Athlete of the Week honors in cross country, joining three women who have earned this honor in prior years.
Courtney O’Hara, RCSJ Gloucester
Freshman | Woodbury Heights, New Jersey
Courtney O’Hara had a second-straight impressive start to her collegiate career. With a time of 26:19.5, O’Hara was the leading JUCO runner in finishing 51st at the 6K tract laid out for the Osprey Open in Galloway, New Jersey. Last week she clocked 23:36 for 5K on a hilly course at the Philadelphia Metro Championships. O’Hara is the fourth female athlete – and first since 2018 – from Rowan College South Jersey Gloucester to be named M-F Athlete of the Week in cross country.