Each season, Gatorade recognizes one student-athlete from each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. who embodies its Player of the Year program’s three pillars: athletic production, academic achievement and exemplary character.
Each week during its Gatorade State Player of the Year selection process, USA TODAY surfaces one candidate who meets those criteria and deserves recognition as a serious Gatorade State Player of the Year contender.
Name: Taylee Nyquest
School: Thorne Bay (Alaska) School
Sport: Cross Country
Athletic Production: Taylee Nyquest’s coach urges her to “run like a bear is chasing you,” which is, well, an easy task when there’s actually a bear chasing you. Nyquest came within 10 feet of a black bear while leading the Region V Cross Country Championships this season.
The 2012 Class 1-2-3A state champion stopped, yelled and startled the bear—which first climbed a tree, then ran in the other direction, allowing Nyquest to finish the race … though the rest of the runners behind her were stopped and had to rerun the race later in the day.
Despite a considerable size advantage, the bear may have had a reason to bolt from Nyquest: The Thorne Bay junior has four times been the top female archer at the National Archery in Schools Program state championships, and has represented Alaska in the national championship tournament.
The state cross country runner-up in 2013, Nyquest finished third at this year’s finals with a time of 19:09.
Academic Achievement: Nyquest has maintained an A average.
Exemplary Character: A devoted member of her church community and a talented musician, Nyquest has volunteered locally with a Vacation Bible School, provided babysitting for single mothers and participated in elementary school literacy initiatives.