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Boys' Cross Country Athlete of the Year
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Boys' Cross Country Athlete of the Year

 

2000

Donald Sage
York High School, Elmhurst, Illinois

A product of one of the nation's top high school cross country programs led by National High School Cross Country Coach of the Year Joe Newton, Sage won the Illinois Class AA individual title, running the 3-mile course in a time of 14:03, the fourth fastest time in state history. He was the state runner-up as a sophomore and junior and 24th in the state as a freshman. As the leader of York's track team, Sage won Class AA titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters as a junior and senior. As a senior, Sage ran the fastest double in state history, setting a Class AA record in the 3,200 in 8:42.89 and running the 1,600 in 4:07.58, missing the state record by less than one-half second. "Athletes like Donald Sage are among the success stories produced in high school athletics today," NHSCA executive director Bob Ferraro said. "He has worked extremely hard to develop his skills and has become one of the best runners not only in the state of Illinois, but the entire nation, and we are proud to be honoring him."  Also a standout in the 800-meter run, Sage ran the anchor legs that helped York establish national indoor and outdoor records in the 4X800-meter relay. He was the runner-up in the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships last December, and in June ran a mile in 4:00.29 at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., the fastest time for the mile run by a high school athlete since the great Marty Liquori in 1967. Also an outstanding student, Sage accepted an athletic scholarship to Stanford University.

 

2001

Dathan Ritzenheim
Rockford High School, Rockford, Michigan

"Athletes like Dathan Ritzenheim are among the success stories produced in high school athletics today," NHSCA executive director Bob Ferraro said. "He has worked extremely hard to develop his skills and has become one of the best runners not only in the state of Michigan, but the entire nation, and we are proud to be honoring him." A two-time Class A state champion, Ritzenheim, who will attend the University of Colorado, has not lost a race in the United States in his age group the past two years. He is a two-time champion in the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships. In the prestigious Penn Relays this spring, Ritzenheim finished second in the Olympic Development 5-kilometer race when he ran a time of 13:51.69, the second-fastest time ever by a high school athlete. The only prep athlete to better that time, Gerry Lindgren, ran the event in 13:44 in 1964. Ritzenheim won a bronze medal in the World Junior Championships in Belgium this spring.             

 

2002

Timothy Moore
Novi High School, Novi, Michigan

"Athletes like Timothy Moore are among the success stories produced in high school athletics today," NHSCA executive director Bob Ferraro said. "He has worked extremely hard to develop his skills and has become one of the best runners not only in the state of Michigan, but the entire nation, and we are proud to be honoring him." Moore broke out of the shadow of last year's National High School Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year, Dathan Ritzenheim of Rockford, to win his first Class A state title last fall. He also won the Foot Locker national championship race last December in 14:50, combining with Ritzenheim to push the Foot Locker winning streak posted by Michigan boys to three. After finishing eighth in the Foot Locker race as a junior, Moore anchored the 4x800 relay team that won the national high school championship last spring. He has accepted a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame.

 

2003

Chris Solinsky
Stevens Point Area High School, Stevens Point, Wisconsin

"Not many athletes are able to win three state titles in a grueling sport like cross country," said NHSCA executive director Bob Ferraro. "Chris Solinsky has demonstrated that an ongoing work ethic and continued passion can bring about the greatest of results. We are proud to honor Chris as the NHSCA Senior Cross Country Athlete of the Year." Solinsky was the class of Wisconsin distance racing for the past three years, winning multiple state championships in distance events on the track, and the Division I cross country title in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Then, after a third-place finish at the 2001 Foot Locker National Championships, where he was just 2.5 seconds from winning the coveted crown, Solinsky returned to the Foot Lockers and won the national title by a record-tying 20 seconds. After being courted by many of the nation's top Division I men's running programs Solinsky decided to stay at home and run in the Big Ten for the University of Wisconsin.

 

2004

Matt Withrow
Victor J. Andrew High School, Tinley Park, Illinois

Withrow, an Illinois state champion who will attend the University of Wisconsin, surprised many of the most astute in the national running community last fall with his inspiring sweep of the Foot Locker Midwest Regional and National Finals. Withrow managed to stay below the radar due to the fact his lone state championship came in his senior season (he was second as a junior), and he had not previously competed in any national events.

 

2005

Andrew Bumbalough
Brentwood Academy, Brentwood, Tennessee

Bumbalough set course records on virtually every course he ran on during his career. A three-time Division II state champion, he broke the state's 23-year-old course record as a senior, his time of 14:14 winning the race by more than a full minute. Bumbalough also won three state track titles - twice in the 3,200 and once in the 1,600. The 2004 Foot Locker National Championships runnerup, Bumbalough shattered by 11 seconds the course record held by a former NHSCA Senior Athlete of the Year - Alan Webb - in the South Regional, and his qualifying time of 14:32 was more than one minute faster than any other runner in the nation. He will attend Georgetown University.  

 

2006

A.J. Acosta
El Camino High School, Oceanside, California

Acosta was the champion of the Foot Locker Boys National Championship in 2005 after finishing ninth in the race as a junior. Twice third in the overall California state championships, he was the Division 1 state champion as a senior and runner-up as a junior. Acosta was selected as the state Senior Runner of the Year by dyestatcal.com and was the mile runner-up in the Boston Indoor Games this year. Already the holder of California's fastest time in the 3,200-meter run this spring, Acosta competed in the Oregon Twilight Meet May 5 and posted a time of 3:45.73 in the 1500 meters, the second-fastest time ever run by a high school runner in the state. He will attend the University of Oregon.

 

2007

Chad Hall
Big Bear High School, Big Bear Lake, California

Hall was the champion of the Foot Locker Boys National Championship in 2006 after a runnerup finish in the West Region qualifying race. He was the Division 4 state champion as a senior and finished just one second behind the overall boys leader, and was the Division 4 state runnerup as a sophomore and junior. He also finished 12th in the 3,200 meters in the state track and field tournament as a junior. Hall began his senior season by setting a course record in the prestigious Woodbridge Invitational, and was honored by Sports Illustrated as its National High School Athlete of the Week. He will attend the University of Oregon.

 

2008

Chris Derrick
Neuqua Valley High School, Naperville, Illinois

Derrick was named the Gatorade National Boys Runner of the Year after finishing second in the Foot Locker Boys National Championship in 2007 in a time of 15:03, and leading his team to the championship of the Nike Team Nationals, winning the race in 15:39.8. He set nine course records in a spectacular senior season and won the Class 3A state title by 20 seconds as Neuqua Valley also won the team title. Derrick's time of 13:52 made him the first Illinois runner in 30 years to break the 14-minute barrier, and he came within 1.4 seconds of the state record set by national standout Craig Virgin of Lebanon High in 1972. As a junior, Derrick finished third in the state meet and added a runnerup finish in the 3,200 in the Class AA track and field state tournament. Also an outstanding student with a 4.57 grade-point average, he will attend Stanford University.

 

2009

Reed Connor
The Woodlands High School, The Woodlands, Texas

The 6-foot-1 Connor was named the Gatorade National Boys Runner of the Year after winning the Nike Cross Nationals Championship in 2008 in a course-record time of 15:13.6. He also set a course record in the Nike South Regional final. In the Class 5A state tournament, Connor's winning time of 14:47.19 was the second-fastest in the history of the Texas state meet. Connor slashed nearly two minutes off the time he ran in the state meet as a junior and won the race by 12 seconds. He also set course records in the Andy Wells Invitational and the Aldine Invitational, and became the third runner ever to break 15 minutes in the Chile Pepper Festival race in Arkansas. Also an outstanding student with a 3.7 grade-point average, he will attend the University of Wisconsin.

 

2010

Wade Meddles
Sierra Lutheran High School, Minden, Nevada

The 5-foot-10 Meddles is one of the top distance runners in Nevada high school history. A two-time Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year, Meddles is a two-time 2A state champion, setting a course record last fall with a time of 16:05.89. Last December, he ran 15:24 to finish third in the Foot Locker National Championships, the highest finish ever by a Nevada runner. He also won the Nike Cross Nationals Southwest Region championship and finished second in the Foot Locker West Regional meet. Meddles also is a track and field standout, owning a combined five victories and 10 top-two finishes in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs. He set state records twice in the 3,200, with his time of 9:36.96 in 2009 breaking his own record by more than 16 seconds, and he also won the 800 and the 1,600 as a junior. Concentrating on the 800 and the 1,600 this year, his time of 4:16.88 in the 1,600 broke the all-class state record by nearly eight seconds, and he was the 800 runner-up in a photo finish. He will attend Azusa Pacific University.

 

2011

Lukas Verzbicas
Carl Sandburg High School, Orland Park, Illinois  

The 6-foot Verzbicas built a legendary resume in just three years. He won three 3A state championships, coming within five seconds of the legendary Craig Virgin’s 38-year-old state record last fall. After his high-school season concluded, Verzbicas became the first boy to win the Nike Cross Nationals and the Foot Locker Nationals in the same year. In repeating as the Foot Locker Nationals champion, Verzbicas won the race in 14:59. In 2009, Verzbicas became the first sophomore to win the race in its then 31-year history. The last repeat Foot Locker Nationals winner, Dathan Ritzenhein (1999-2000) of Santa Rosa (Calif.) Montgomery High, was named the NHSCA Senior Athlete of the Year in 2001. That performance earned Verzbicas Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year honors for the second consecutive year. He also was the 2009 Junior Duathlon World Champion. Indoors this year, he posted the No. 2 all-time mark in the 3,000 (8:07.54) and the No. 3 all-time marks in the 1,500 (3:47.60) and the 1,600 (4:03.88). A native of Lithuania who came to the United States at the age of nine, Verzbicas, who owns a 3.25 GPA, will graduate from Carl Sandburg this year in just three years. He will attend the University of Oregon.

 

2012

Futsum Zeinasellassie
North Central High School, Indianapolis, Indiana

As a freshman, the 5-foot-8 Zeinasellassie finished second at the cross country state meet, seventh at the Foot Locker National Championships, and won the 3,200-meter track and field state title. He became Indiana’s third three-time cross country state champion last fall by running the 5,000 meters in 14:48.8, a course record, winning the race by 44 seconds. Zeinasellassieis a two-time Foot Locker Nationals runner-up, won the Nike Cross Nationals in 2011 in a course-record 15:02.41, and was named the Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year and the National Boys Senior Athlete of the Year by xcnation.com. This spring, he won the 3,200 in the prestigious Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational in 8:47.75, breaking a 37-year-oldrecord for the fastest time by an Indiana runner and recording the nation’s fastest time in the event this year according to dyestat.com. A native of Eritrea who emigrated to the United States at the age of 14, Zeinasellassie has maintained a B average in the classroom. A devoted member of his church community,where his father is a pastor, he has volunteered with youth track programs and raised funds to benefit a school in Kenya. He will attend Northern Arizona University, where his older brother, Bahlbi Gebreyohanns, is a sophomore member of the cross country team.

 

2013

Edward Cheserek
St. Benedict’s Prep, Newark, New Jersey  

Edward Cheserek may have had the best-ever high school cross-country career ever. While he was the nation’s top-ranked runner throughout most of his high school career, it was his story of coming to America as an orphan from Kenya caught the attention of the running community. Cheserek, who will attend Oregon on a scholarship, won the prestigious Foot Locker Nationals as a junior and a senior, plus set several national records including the high school indoor two-mile record.  

  

2014

Taylor “Kai” Wilmot
North Central HS, Spokane, Washington

Kai Wilmot capped an incredible senior season by winning the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) in Portland while setting an NXN course record with a winning time of 15:00. In addition to the NXN gold, Wilmot led his school to the Washington Class 3A team championship. Wilmot also captured the gold medal at the Bob Firmin Invitational championship in Idaho. Wilmot, who was named Gatorade’s Washington Boys’ Cross Country Runner of the Year, carries a 3.98 GPA and will attend the University of Wisconsin. Wilmot is the first Washington State cross country runner to be honored by the NHSCA.

 

2015

Grant Fisher
Grand Blanc HS, Grand Blanc, Michigan

Grant Fisher closed-out his scholastic career by winning a national championship. Fisher, who twice was named Gatorade’s National Cross County Runner of the Year, captured gold at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.  Last year’s Michigan Division 1 champ carried a 4.11 GPA in the classroom. Fisher will attend Stanford.

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