Back in 1985, Gatorade established an award honoring the nation's top high school student-athletes. Since then, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has recognized more than 12,500 state and national winners in 12 sports.
Gatorade Player of the Year alumni include household names like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Kerri Walsh and Abby Wambach — a distinguished group, indeed.
This week, we're catching up with Jason Hartmann and Shalane Flanagan.
Monday was supposed to be an afternoon of celebration for Jason Hartmann and Shalane Flanagan, two former Gatorade State Track & Field Athletes of the Year who respectively recorded the top U.S. male and female times at this year’s Boston Marathon.
Instead, Monday marked a “somber” and “devastating” occasion for Hartmann and Flanagan, as it was for Bostonians, Americans and millions of others around the world in the wake of the twin bombings.
Both runners covered the 26.2-mile course hours before the blasts rocked Boylston Street’s home stretch. Hartmann finished fourth in 2:12.12, just 1:50 off Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa’s winning time among male competitors. Meanwhile, Flanagan placed fourth in 2:27.08, crossing the finish line 1:43 after female champ Rita Jeptoo of Kenya.
“It’s a somber occasion,” said Hartmann, a Michigan native, in a phone interview with the Grand Rapids Presson Monday evening. “My race went very well, and this is a day to be in a celebratory mood, as it usually is for a lot of people. But it’s not celebratory. Not now.”
In the hours after the attack, Flanagan, whose Massachusetts relatives came to support her at the race, alerted her 34,000 Twitter followers: “My family and I are safe. Thank you for your concerns. Devastating.”
On Wednesday, Hartmann added via Twitter: “The true heroes of the weekend were the National Guard, police, medical staff, volunteers that reacted to the unfortunate incident.”
Before becoming an All-American at University of Oregon, Hartmann captured 1997-98 Gatorade Michigan Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors as a Rockford High junior, sweeping the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs in 4:12.80 and 9:24.54 at his 1998 state meet.
Two years later, Flanagan earned 1999-2000 Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors as a Marblehead High senior, winning the 2000 All-State Meet title in the 1-mile (4:52.38). She also still owns the All-State record for the 2-mile (10:24.21).
Some 15 years later, Hartmann and Flanagan helped shed light on an otherwise dark day. On behalf of the USA TODAY team that administers the Gatorade Player of the Year Program, our thoughts and prayers rest with all those affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy.