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Thursday, September 24, 2009
Saad, Andrews earn ESPN RISE honors

By Mark Tennis
ESPNRISE.com

(After meets and matches and events through Sept. 21)

There aren't many sad times when Soony Saad is playing for the Dearborn High boys' soccer team of Dearborn, Mich. The same could be said when Sarah Andrews is rolling through another cross country course for The Woodlands High of The Woodlands, Texas.

Saad and Andrews have been chosen today as the third ESPN RISE National Athletes of the Week for the 2009-10 school year.

For the fall season, the weekly national athlete of the week honors will be given to those who participate in fall sports other than football. These include boys' cross country, girls' cross country, boys' soccer, girls' soccer, girls' volleyball, softball in the Southwest and Southeast and any other non-football school sanctioned sport. Football will have its own separate player of the week recognition program.

Saad, a senior midfielder, helped his team remain unbeaten at 5-0-2 for the season so far by scoring eight goals and assisting on another goal in two wins last week. He had five goals in an 8-0 blanking of Belleville and three goals plus an assist in a 5-0 shutout of North Farmington. A member of the U.S. men's U-17 national team last summer, he has committed to play with his brother, Hamoody, at the University of Michigan next season.

When Saad competed for the U.S. men's U-15 national team two years ago, he was chosen the MVP.

Though she's won countless meets, Andrews has also often found herself the bridesmaid when racing the nation's best, whether it was races against fellow Texas star Chelsey Sveinsson or in the USATF Junior 5,000 against Aisling Cuffe of New York. But maybe that's starting to change.

In the Pan-Am Juniors last summer, Andrews turned around and beat Cuffe at 5,000 meters, and now she has broken one of prep cross country's most intimidating course records. Her winning 16:01 last weekend at the Woodbridge Invitational in California -- an absolutely eye-popping mark, even on a flat, fast 3-mile course that is thought by many to be even shorter -- is arguably the most impressive cross-country time in the nation so far this fall. It clipped four seconds off the 2007 mark set by Christine Babcock, the Californian who the following spring would break the national high school 1,600- and 1,500-meter records and qualify for the Olympic Trials.

The complete list of this week's ESPN RISE Regional Athletes of the Week for fall sports (not including football) follows below:

East Boys
Joe Rosa -- Cross Country
West Windsor-Plainsboro North (Plainsboro, N.J.)

In his first race of the year, the junior standout had a blockbuster performance that made it clear he's going to continue to be a national championship contender. Already holding the course record at the Briarwood Invite in Pennsylvania with the sterling 15:33 he ran in his sophomore year, Rosa hammered that mark down to 15:19 at this year's meet, 19 seconds clear of his twin brother, Jim, who was in second place. While the time is a bit off the fastest in the country for the year, Rosa's time is acknowledged as stupendous for a tougher course and indicates he can build on last year. Part of one of the best sophomore classes, nationally, that the country has ever seen in 2008, Rosa finished the fall considered the best of that group after his fourth-place finish at the Nike Cross National finals -- the highest non-senior and superior to what any sophomore did at the Foot Locker race.

East Girls
Breanna Pletnick -- Soccer
Villa Joseph Marie (Holland, Pa.)

The Virginia Tech commit scored three of her team's four goals over the weekend as ESPN RISE FAB 50-ranked Villa Joseph Marie secured a pair of quality 2-0 wins. The first of those wins as against Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (Gwynedd Valley, Pa.) while the second came versus Owen J. Roberts of Pottstown, Pa.. Pletnick scored both goals against Gwynedd-Mercy and has been outstanding in every match so far.

Southeast Boys
Jake Rainey -- Cross Country
Rossview (Clarksville, Tenn.)

Despite mud and rain, Rainey, a senior, won his third invitational so far this fall and may have established himself as the one to beat in the Volunteer State. His 15:51.21 over 5k in the horrendous conditions beat a field at the Tennessee Classic that included Maryville senior Clint McKelvey, a Foot Locker Finalist last year and considered the top returnee in the state. Rainey was 5th in the state AAA race last year and was eighth at the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast meet.

Southeast Girls
Elise Welch -- Volleyball
Martin County (Stuart, Fla.)

The 6-5 senior in the middle had 19 kills as Martin County defeated Jensen Beach (Fla.) last Saturday in the championship match of the East Coast Challenge. Welch, who is headed to Wisconsin, also has had 25 and 24 kills in separate matches this season. Entering this week, Martin County had a 13-1 record in volleyball while Welch had 198 kills.

Midwest Boys
Soony Saad -- Soccer
Dearborn (Mich.)

Also named the ESPN RISE National Athlete of the Week.

Midwest Girls
Megan Goethals -- Cross Country
Rochester (Mich.)

After finishing third in the Foot Locker Finals last fall, Goethals is picking up right where she left off. She has started the season with two big invitational victories in Michigan, beating virtually every other top contender in the state by at last 16 seconds. Last Friday's Playmakers Spartan Invitational saw her repeat her 2008 victory, improving by 17 seconds for a 17:22 victory in 5K. Goethals was unbeaten in Michigan last fall, then won Foot Locker Midwest on her way to San Diego. Last spring, she was runner-up in both the Nike Outdoor Nationals mile and 2-mile.

Southwest Boys
Caleb Hoover -- Cross Country
College Heights Christian (Joplin, Mo.)

The excitement of seeing what a new course would yield was strongly present last week at the Missouri Southern Stampede, and this junior made sure the first course record on the layout would be a good one. His 15:28.32 over 5K won by 30 seconds, with those he defeated including last year's 4A champ, Kevin Colon. It was the third big win of the season for Hoover, who last year was second in the 1A state meet, but has improved dramatically since then.

Southwest Girls
Sarah Andrews -- Cross Country
The Woodlands (Texas)

Also named the ESPN RISE National Athlete of the Week.

West Boys
Hayden Wooff -- Cross Country
Camarillo (Calif.)

By shaving about 30 seconds off his 3,200-meter time from the beginning of the track season to the end last spring, Wooff went from a promising CIF Southern Section sophomore to a CIF Southern Section Masters champ. His 8:55.16 at the CIF state meet also netted him a third-place finish. Last weekend, he established that he's picking up where he left off and took the first step on his road to a state harrier title bid with a 14:08 on the famed Woodbridge course. Wooff won by five seconds over a field that included arguably half of the state's top dozen runners with a clocking that's second only to California record-holder Chad Hall (2006) in meet history. Hall went on to win the Foot Locker Finals that year.

West Girls
Sara Bridges -- Soccer
Jesuit (Portland, Ore.)

It was an easy week for the Jesuit girls' soccer team, but it was still an impressive week for Bridges. She scored two goals and assisted on three others as Jesuit won twice. Bridges is one of the fastest players in the state, which is why she's headed to the University of Portland. As a sophomore, she was on the track team and ran a leg on a relay team that won a Class 6A state title.

The ESPN RISE Athlete of the Week panel consists of Steve Underwood (cross country), Sheldon Shealer (soccer), Christine Jinbo (volleyball), Garland Cooper (softball), Doug Huff (multi-sports) and Mark Tennis (multi-sports).