A relative newcomer to distance running, Grand Blanc High (Grand Blanc, Mich.) junior Grant Fisher covered plenty of uncharted ground this past season. His first world championship final. His first national title in cross country. But today, he raced into prep sports immortality when three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein surprised him with the 2013-14 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year award.
“I can’t really process this,” said Fisher, 16, who will begin his senior year of high school this fall. “I have no words. Especially in terms of the caliber of athletes who’ve won this before me. Having Dathan here is a dream come true too. He’s a hero to Michigan runners.”
The 5-foot-8, 135-pound Fisher raced to the national title this past season with a time of 15:07 at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships. Fisher won the Division 1 state title in 15:13.7 and captured the Foot Locker Midwest Regional championships in 15:02.
“You can see the courage and the toughness in Grant,” said Ritzenhein, 31, the former American record-holder in the 5,000-meter run, who twice earned Gatorade Michigan Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors from 1999-01. “He’s the first American-born runner to win Foot Locker championship as a junior since I did, and he’s faster than me at that age. I think he’s got a very bright future.”
This season, Fisher broke the tape at the Portage Invitational, the Jackson Invitational, the Nike/Holly/Duane Raffin Festival of Races, the KLAA Lakes Conference Championships and the Region 2 championships. Better known as a track talent entering the season, he won a state title in the outdoor 3200 last spring and finished ninth in the 1500 final at last summer’s World Youth Championships in Ukraine. Fisher split time with the Grand Blanc soccer team last fall, leading the Bobcats to a 17-1-3 record. He’s rated a four-star recruit by Top Drawer Soccer.
“Above all else, the name of the game in cross country is to win and that's all Grant Fisher did on the way to capturing the Foot Locker title,” said Doug Binder, Editor-in-chief of Dyestat.com. “Of all the top guys in the country, he's the only one that went undefeated. With the national championship on the line, he was able to pull something out of reserve and get the job done. Grant matured by leaps and bounds as a distance runner last fall and I think we’re going to hear a lot more from him in the spring.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse. Fisher is now a finalist for the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award. USA TODAY High School Sports administrates the nationwide selection process in collaboration with Gatorade.
An All-State Honorable Mention in soccer this past fall, Fisher has maintained a 3.95 GPA in the classroom. A peer tutor at his school, he has volunteered locally as part of an effort to renovate the Grand Blanc High athletics concession stand in addition to donating his time to youth sports programs.
Fisher becomes the first boys cross country talent from Michigan to win national Gatorade honors. He joins seven other national winners from the state, including former NBA star Chris Webber (Detroit Country Day, Birmingham), who won in 1991, former NFL quarterback and MLB infielder Drew Henson (Brighton), the 1998 winner in baseball, and MLS midfielder Eric Alexander (Portage Central), who won in 2006.
California has produced the most national winners in the award program’s 29-year history with 60 followed by Texas (27), Florida (20) and Illinois (15).