Jacob Swearingen, a boys cross country runner from Potosi High (Mo.) who lost his house in a fire but in the past two weeks still put together his finest races of the season, and Alyssa Andrews, a girls cross country runner from Gig Harbor High of Gig Harbor, Wash., have been named the latest ESPN RISE National Boys and Girls Athletes of the Week for the 2008-09 school year.
On Nov. 8, the day he won the Missouri state 3A title, with the best time of any class, Swearingen and his family learned their home had been destroyed by fire.
After what surely had to be a difficult week, Swearingen was back on the cross country course at the Nike Cross Nationals Midwest meet in Terre Haute, Ind., trying to make the Nike Cross National finals in Portland. He fell short of victory, but finished an excellent second in 15:26 (5K) to Steve Sulkin of Illinois.
As Sulkin was a team qualifier, Swearingen was actually the first individual to make the finals under the new Nike Cross National format.
Our national girls honoree is also a cross country runner and won't have to travel quite as far for the Nike Cross National event.
At season's start, the Northwest in general had a lot of good female runners, but not someone who stood out as "money" in big races, week in and week out. Andrews has emerged as that runner and has showed it the past two weeks.
First, Andrews confirmed her growing status as Washington's dominant runner with her 4A state title on Nov. 8, then by ruling over the Nike Cross Nationals Northwest field Saturday with her course-record 17:59. That 5K performance was 15 seconds clear of a field loaded with state champs from almost every state in the Northwest.
The full list of this week's ESPN RISE regional boys and girls athletes of the week follows:
East Region Athletes of the Week
Joseph Lopez (Brentwood, N.Y.) Soccer:
The junior forward scored twice to lead Brentwood to a 2-1 triumph over Clarence in the Class AA state final. Lopez, who also came up with a key assist on the lone goal in a 1-0 win earlier in the postseason over Massapequa, ended the season with a school-record 25 goals. He helped the Indians to a final record of 24-0 and they will be No. 1 in the final ESPN RISE FAB 50 national rankings for boys soccer teams that play in the fall.
Emily Jones (Broomfield, Mass.) Cross Country:
When you've been on top as long as Jones has, it's tough to keep finding ways to impress. But a 17:51 for 5K on the famed Franklin Park course in Boston isn't a bad way to start. The two-time Foot Locker Finalist and Nike Outdoor National 2-Mile runner-up won her third straight Massachusetts All-State D2 title Saturday, with easily the best clocking of the day, D1 or D2. That mark also ranks sixth all time on a course with a very long history.
Southeast Region Athletes of the Week
Carlos Omana (Belen Jesuit, Miami, Fla.) Swimming:
Omana was the key individual as Belen Jesuit won its third straight Florida Class 2A state championship last weekend. Omana, just a sophomore, won the 200 individual medley and took second in the 100 backstroke. He also anchored the 400 freestyle relay, which was the last event of the meet, and clinched the team title by touching the wall first. Omana and his teammates were inspired to do well for ailing head coach Kirk Peppas, who recently suffered a mild stroke and was in the hospital following meet results via the Internet.
Jessica Yingling (Timber Creek, Orlando, Fla.) Volleyball:
A returning all-state player, Yingling has been ringing up kills all season long. She had a match-high 16 kills Saturday as Timber Creek ousted defending state champ Buchholz in the Class 6A state playoffs. Her team (29-2) will now play in the state semifinals. Yingling also had 19 kills in a playoff match against Oviedo. She has had as many as 31 kills in one match this season and is nearing 500 overall.
Midwest Region Athletes of the Week
Jakub Zivec (Grand Rapids, Minn.) Cross Country:
Zivec had never run anything but JV races until Saturday, but now he's the Nike Cross Nationals Heartland champion. Zivec is a student from the Czech Republic at Grand Rapids High and, not being part of an official exchange program, was unable to run in varsity meets under state guidelines. But he was eligible to compete against the Heartland's best in Sioux Falls, S.D., and showed the same form that stunned Minnesota fans in the few JV meets he was able to run before Saturday. His 15:24 (5K) beat defending champ Joash Osoro of North Dakota and made Zivec a national championship contender.
Caroline Niski (St. Charles East, St. Charles, Ill.) Volleyball:
The junior outside hitter led the underclass-dominated Saints to an upset victory over the heavily favored, senior-laden Benet team to capture the Illinois Class 4A volleyball title 23-25, 25-22, 25-19. Niski, one of four underclassmen in the lineup, had 16 kills in the finals as the Saints won their second state crown, with the other coming in 2001.
Southwest Region Athletes of the Week
Jacob Swearingen (Potosi, Mo.) Cross Country:
Also selected ESPN RISE National Boys Athlete of the Week.
Megan Yohe (Liberty, Mo.) Cross Country:
While transfer Emily Sisson has chewed up most of the girls' headlines in Missouri this fall, Saturday was Yohe's time to shine. A runner-up in 4A to Sisson the previous week, Yohe came to Terre Haute for the Nike Cross Nationals Midwest race, hoping to run against runners she'd never seen before from four other states. She did an excellent job, taking the third of five individual qualifying spots for the NXN Nationals, running 18:23 (5K) in cold, windy and rainy conditions, and trailing only two Ohio stars.
West Region Athletes of the Week
Danny Sanchez (Las Vegas, Nev.) Soccer:
Las Vegas High has won state titles in other sports, but got its first in boys' soccer Saturday with Sanchez leading the way in a 4-3 win over Galena of Reno. Sanchez scored two goals and assisted on a third. Galena took a 2-1 lead, but couldn't hold on. Sanchez scored the go-ahead goal in the 56th minute and then assisted on the team's fourth goal.
Alyssa Andrews (Gig Harbor, Wash.) Cross Country:
Also selected 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.