This week's installment of the ESPN RISE National Boys and Girls Athlete of the Week honors includes winter sport nominees for the first time, but for the second straight week two cross country runners are taking top billing.
Both Reed Connor from The Woodlands High (Texas), and Chelsey Sveinsson from Greenhills High (Texas) won Nike Cross Nationals individual crowns Saturday in Portland and that was too much for any of the other regional winners.
Unleashing a monster kick with about 250 meters to go, Connor sprinted away from a pack of four and took the individual title at the Nike Cross Nationals against a field of 197 runners from all over the country.
Connor's 15:14 for 5K smashed the course record by 11 seconds and completed a sweep for Texas runners at the top. It also completed an amazing run during the second half of the season
(after the Nike South meet in October) in which Connor, a senior, won everything in sight and set several personal and course records, including the Texas 5A and NXN South titles.
Our girls national athlete of the week is just a sophomore and she should be something to watch in the next two years in both cross country and track.
With a move no one could match in the final kilometer, Sveinsson pulled away from fellow Texan Sarah Andrews and claimed the individual title at the 5th Nike Cross Nationals championship in Portland Saturday. Her 17:27 for 5K was a new course record and nine seconds ahead of Andrews.
Sveinnson's season has included only one loss, at Foot Locker South, and she will attempt to conclude a fantastic season with a high finish at the Foot Locker Finals this weekend. She is one of five attempting the national meet double. She was also the Nike Indoor 800 and freshman mile champ last winter.
The full list of this week's ESPN RISE regional boys and girls athletes of the week follows:
East Region Athletes of the Week
Michael Philpott (Livingston, N.J.) Ice Hockey
The sophomore standout was the star of the game as New Jersey celebrated its 50th year of high school hockey with a special opener that involved two of the state's original five schools to play the sport. Philpott put his team ahead of West Orange with a goal in the early minutes and continued to attack the goalie area. He finished with four goals and one assist to lead Livingston to a 6-1 triumph.
Maggie Lucas (Germantown Academy, Fort Washington, Pa.) Girls Basketball
One of the top pure shooting guards in the nation, Lucas, a junior who has committed to Penn State, pumped in 33 points to lead Germantown Academy past Chester, 86-61 in the championship game of the Chester tourney. Lucas emerged as a top national-level player with a breakout performance last summer at the Nike Nationals in South Carolina.
Southeast Region Athletes of the Week
Dominic Cutrofello (Land O'Lakes, Fla.) Soccer
A senior midfielder, Cutrofello had four goals and two assists in a pair of matches last week as Land O'Lakes continues its hot start. Cutrofello had three goals and two assists in the team's 9-1 win over Ridgewood and one goal in the squad's 3-0 win over River Ridge. He has 17 goals as Land O'Lakes is off to an 8-1-1 start.
Brianni Lorenzo (Pembroke Pines Charter, Fla.) Soccer
Lorenzo netted five goals -- and her team needed them all -- in a 7-3 victory over Coral Gables. Lorenzo has scored 22 goals for 8-2-1 PPC, and she leads the Broward County area in scoring.
Midwest Region Athletes of the Week
Drew Shields (Fishers, Ind.) Cross Country
Running perhaps his best race of the season, the Indiana state champ led all Midwest region finishers at last Saturday's Nike Cross Nationals Finals in Portland in 7th place. His 15:29 for 5K beat 190 of 197 runners, including each of the three who defeated him three weeks earlier at the NXN Midwest meet. Shields was 6th at Foot Locker Midwest the week before, qualifying for Foot Locker Finals
this weekend. He's one of five boys in the country doing both national meets.
Ashlie Decker (Dowling Catholic, Dowling, Iowa) Cross Country
On the third leg of a postseason odyssey that is taking her to four meets in four states in five weeks, Decker placed 8th in the Nike Cross Nationals championship in Portland. The Iowa state 4A champ had previously won the NXN Heartland Region race and placed 6th in the Foot Locker Midwest meet. She was the first runner to finish from the Heartland region in the championship race as well. Decker will attempt to conclude her season with a high finish at Foot Locker Finals this weekend in San Diego.
Southwest Region Athletes of the Week
Reed Connor (The Woodlands, Texas) Cross Country
Also named ESPN RISE National Boys Athlete of the Week.
Chelsey Sveinsson (Greenhills, Texas) Cross Country
Also named ESPN RISE National Girls Athlete of the Week.
West Region Athletes of the Week
Alexander Avila (North Central, Spokane, Wash.) Cross Country
No team from west of the Mississippi had ever won the Nike Cross Nationals championship -- until last Saturday. It's not always the leaders, though, that get the most important points for the team. As the fifth man, Avila, a junior, passed 18 runners in the last two kilometers to help North Central erase a big deficit against early leader Elmhurst XC (York HS) of Illinois. His 16:26 5K, 54th in team scoring, enabled his team to have a tight 1-5 spread and win the national title by 17 points.
Eleanor Fulton (Highlands Ranch, Colo.)
Without a doubt, one of the biggest surprises Saturday at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland was the stunning third-place finish of this sophomore. She had previously finished seventh in the NXN Southwest after taking fifth in her Colorado 4A state meet. Last Saturday, however, she defeated four girls who had beaten her previously in the SW race (with two not participating).
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 email@example.com.