RISE National Athletes of the Week


It's an all-cross country edition of the ESPN RISE National Boys and Girls Athlete of the Week honors and it's all-California as well with this week's spotlight shining on senior Alex Dunne of San Clemente High and sophomore Elias Gedyon from Loyola High (Los Angeles).

The all-cross country flavor of this week's selections is due mainly to the fact that all fall sports throughout the nation other than cross country, California girls volleyball and football (in which we have separate honors) were concluded one week earlier.

Next week, we will begin including basketball players into the athlete category along with other winter sport athletes. Once the football season is wrapped up, we will then break up our honors to include five boys basketball players, five girls basketball players plus five boys athletes and five more girls athletes each week.

Last weekend, Dunne turned in one of the most memorable runs by a girl in the history of the California Interscholastic Federation state finals in Fresno. Competing in the Division I title race, Dunne noticed about halfway through that one of her running flat racing shoes had a problem. She decided to kick off the shoe and run the rest of the way with one shoe on and the other barefoot.

Despite the problem, Dunne ran away from the field and came home with a first-place finish in the state meet. Her time of 17:27 over the 5-kilometer course at Fresno's Woodward Park also was the second-fastest of the day with the only one faster turned in by prep phenom Jordan Hasay from Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) in Division V.

Speaking of phenoms, Gedyon may be one himself very quickly in the track and distance running community. Just a sophomore, he ran an impressive race in the CIF Division II boys final and led his Loyola High team to its fourth team title in the last seven years. Gedyon clocked 15:01 over the course and broke the sophomore course record by 11 seconds.

As a freshman, Gedyon ran in the same CIF Division II state meet race and finished in seventh place, helping Loyola to the team title.
He was more known for his exploits in the 400 and 800 as a youth runner, but now the longer distances may be more to his liking.

The full list of this week's ESPN RISE regional boys and girls athletes of the week follows:

East Region Athletes of the Week

Alex Hatz Fayetteville-Manlius (Manlius, N.Y.)
Hatz, a junior, continued to make his case for being the best of a wide range of candidates for New York's best harrier, while helping his team get back to Portland. His 15:53 5K was good for an 8-second victory at the Nike Cross Nationals New York region meet at Bowdoin Park in Wappinger Falls, N.Y. It also paced his team to a runner-up finish behind Shenendehowa as both teams earned NXN Finals bids. Two weeks earlier, Hatz won the Class AA state meet with the best time of the day, but his team skipped the New York Federation meet to get ready for these last two weeks.

Shelby Greany (Suffern, N.Y.)
Maybe she has saved the best for last. Greany, a senior, had qualified for Foot Locker Finals three straight years, but No. 4 was looking in danger after sub-par performances at her Class AA state and New York Federation meets. But the Suffern senior was not going to let go of a chance at a San Diego four-peat. In peak form and supremely mentally motivated, Greany instead actually had her best-ever finish at a Foot Locker Northeast meet at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx Saturday. She finished second, beating several other heavily-favored runners and finishing second only to two-time finalist Emily Jones, who moved up from second herself in 2007. Greany's 17:37 for 5K was a 20-second PR.

Southeast Region Athletes of the Week

Matt Sonnenfeldt (West, Knoxville, Tenn.)
Sonnenfeldt, a senior, fulfilled a long sought-after goal by qualifying for the Foot Locker Finals with his runner-up finish at the Foot Locker South meet in Charlotte. Trailing winner Bill Matthews (a previous ESPN RISE Southeast Athlete of the Week) by just two seconds, Sonnenfeldt ran a PR of 14:50 5K in rainy conditions. He was part of a trio of Tennesseans making it to San Diego, the most the state has ever qualified in the 30 years of the meet. Four weeks ago, Sonnenfeldt was the emotional Class AAA state champ, a victory he dedicated to a friend and fellow harrier whose life had been recently lost in an auto accident.

Madeline Morgan (Mountain Brook, Ala.)
Plagued by health problems off and on all fall, it's not been quite what Morgan envisioned after she won at Nike Team National Finals last fall and made the podium three times at Nike Indoor in the winter. But coming off a rough state meet, the senior put together one of her best races of the season to finish second, behind a very good Amanda Winslow, at the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast region meet. Her 17:43 for 5K was nine seconds back and made her the first individual qualifier, since Winslow was part of a qualifying team.

Midwest Region Athletes of the Week

Futsum Zeinasellassie (North Central, Indianapolis, Ind.)
Just a freshman, Zeinasellassie, after tearing up the courses of Indiana during an amazing 9th-grade campaign, saw his bid to win the state title come to an unfortunate end when at the championships the heel of his shoe was stepped on, pulling it partially off. After he stopped to untie and retie the shoe, he had fallen 15 seconds back and couldn't quite make it all up in a runner-up performance. At the Foot Locker Midwest meet last week in Kenosha, Wisc., he showed the rest of the region the outstanding runner he is by finishing fourth in 15:20 for 5K, trailing only runners from Minnesota and Colorado to make the finals in San Diego. The Eritrean native is the first freshman to make it on the boys side of the meet since Jorge Torres in 1995 and the third ever.

Chelsea Oswald (Walsh Jesuit, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio)
For most of the fall, this senior has not been the runner that one would have envisioned after she made the Foot Locker Finals last fall. But Oswald obviously knows how to finish a season strong. After following up a disappointing state meet with a Mideast Meet of Champions victory November 15, Oswald was better than ever at Foot Locker Midwest Saturday. Running a smart race and beating numerous runners ranked ahead of herself, she moved all the way up to third at the end, running 17:36 and trailing only state champs from Missouri and Michigan.

Southwest Region Athletes of the Week

C.J. Brown (Southlake Carroll, Southlake, Texas)

After being slowed by injuries for much of the season, Brown is continuing to return to his outstanding level of 2007. After taking second at Nike Cross Nationals Southeast the previous weekend, the senior came to Charlotte for the Foot Locker South battle hoping to make it two straight years of qualifying for both national meets. That, he did, running 14:59 to take third overall, trailing only two Tennessee runners. Brown said previously he may just concentrate on Foot Locker this time if he qualified, but his decision was not announced as of press time.

Lauren Smith (Brazoswood, Texas)
Smith had come up short in her two biggest meets of the season to date, finishing sixth at Nike South and seventh in her 5A state meet. Apparently, she was determined to break the pattern at the Foot Locker South meet. Showing the same abilities that made this a breakout race for her last year, Smith took fifth with her 17:27 for 5K. That not only guaranteed a return trip for her to the Foot Locker Finals in San Diego, but was four places higher and five seconds faster than she performed last year.

West Region Athletes of the Week

Elias Gedyon (Loyola, Los Angeles, Calif.)
Also named ESPN RISE National Boys Athlete of the Week.

Alex Dunne (San Clemente, Calif.)
Also named ESPN RISE National Girls Athlete of the Week.

Nominations can be sent in each week for consideration. Include brief reasons why the athlete should be chosen and what he or she did in the previous week, and send the nomination to mark@studentsports.com.