ESPN RISE's Athletes of the Week

Alex Sweetin, a boys' soccer player from Rockhurst High of Kansas City, Mo., and Kathy Kroeger, a girls' cross country runner from Independence High of Franklin, Tenn., have been selected as the first ESPN RISE National Boys and Girls Athletes of the Week.

Sweetin scored six goals and had four assists last week over three matches as Rockhurst, the No. 1 team in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 boys soccer rankings, won the Blue Springs South tournament.

Kroeger, the 2006 Foot Locker Finals champ in girls cross country, who came back from a long health-related layoff to place second in Foot Locker last fall, is again in great form. She ran 17:44 to win the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic, her first major invitational, by 1:43. Her time was just five seconds off the winning collegiate time from another race in the same meet, run by University of Arkansas standout Catherine White.

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

East Region
Athletes of the Week

Donald Anding (Chaminade, Mineola, N.Y.) is the leading scorer for the nation's No. 13 boys' soccer squad. He scored twice last week in the team's 3-2 come-from-behind win over state-ranked St.
John the Baptist.

Jessica Schloth (St. Joseph's, Trumbull, Conn.), an all-state performer last year, scored the only goal as St. Joseph's defeated crosstown rival Trumbull in a battle between the state's top two teams.

Southeast Region Athletes of the Week

Taylor Gilland (Chapel Hill, N.C.), a returning two-time state cross-country champ from the Tar Heel State, took first-place over the weekend at the Wolfpack Invite held at Cary, N.C. Gilland clocked 15:39 over a five-kilometer course and edged Dakota Peachee of West Johnston, N.C., who timed 15:44. Gilland is going for his third straight state title later this fall and also has won two straight 3200-meter state crowns on the track. An outstanding student, among the colleges he's considering are Stanford, Harvard and Columbia.

Kathy Kroeger (Independence, Franklin, Tenn.) -- see ESPN RISE National Girls Athlete of the Week.

Midwest Region Athletes of the Week

Ninth-graders almost never move into the national elite on the boys' cross-country side, but in his second huge victory of the season, Lukas Verzbicas (Central, Lincoln-Way, Ill.) ran 15:13 to win the Peoria-Woodruff Invite in Peoria. Among those he defeated were Danny Pawola and Drew Shields, the top runners from Midwest-ranked Neuqua Valley (Ill.) and Fishers (Ind.), respectively. Verzbicas came into high school as an accomplished road, track and triathlon racer.

A 6-1 junior outside hitter, Ashley Wittman (Shakopee, Minn.) is one of the nation's highest-regarded girls' volleyball players in her class. She had 60 kills last week in two matches as Shakopee rolled past Eden Prairie and Northfield. Wittman led Shakopee to the Class 3A state title last year and over the summer was a member of the U.S. Girls Youth National Team.

Southwest Region Athletes of the Week

Alex Sweetin (Rockhurst, Kansas City, Mo.) -- see ESPN RISE National Boys Athlete of the Week.

A 5-foot-5 senior setter, Angie Morgan (Lake Highlands, Dallas) was outstanding as usual in volleyball wins by Lake Highlands last week over Coppell and Skyline of Dallas. The two wins pushed Lake Highlands' record to 27-3 and should keep them No. 1 in this week's Dallas Morning-News' state rankings. Earlier this season, Morgan was all-tournament when her team won top honors at the prestigious Duncanville Invitational.

West Region Athletes of the Week

In the Liberty Bell Invitational in Heritage, Colo. -- perhaps the most important invitational of the season in the Rocky Mountain region -- Joseph Manilafasha (North, Denver, Colo.). the two-time Foot Locker finalist, posted the best time of the day at 14:56 for 5K. He not only ran faster than Colorado's two other Foot Locker finalists (competing in other divisions), but also came within five seconds of Kevin Williams' impressive course record. Manilafasha was 22nd at the Foot Locker finals last fall and seventh at Foot Locker Midwest; he's the No. 3 national and No. 1 regional returnee.

Ashley Jones (Alta, Jordan, Utah) figured in all three goals as Alta, the state's top-ranked girls' soccer team, defeated state No. 2 Brighton, 3-0. Jones scored the first goal on a penalty kick then assisted the last two goals.

Nominations each week can be sent in for consideration. Include brief reasons why athlete should be chosen and what they did during previous week and send to mark@studentsports.com.