For the past 30 years, Gatorade has honored the nation’s most elite high school athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character with theGatorade Player of the Year award. On July 14, the 12 Gatorade National Players of the Year from the 2014-15 season will gather in Hollywood, where the 13th annual GatoradeHigh School Athlete of the Year award will be presented to the best overall male and female athlete.
In the days leading to the presentation, USA TODAY High School Sports will profile each of the 12 candidates — six boys and six girls.
Rockdale County High (Conyers, Ga.) sophomore sprinter Candace Hill is the fastest American high school girl in history, but was stopped in her tracks when she was surprised with the 2014-15 Gatorade National Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year trophy.
Hill is only the second sophomore girl to win Gatorade national honors in any sport, joining prep track legend Marion Jones, and is the youngest athlete ever to win Gatorade national honors in any sport.
“There is so much going through my mind right now,” said Hill, who turned 16 in February. “There are so many deserving athletes out there—especially some seniors— who really deserve this award more than me. For me to be getting it? I’m speechless.”
The 5-foot-8 sophomore became the first prep girl in history to break the 11-second barrier in the 100-meter dash, clocking a time of 10.98 at last week’s Brooks PR meet in Seattle. The record-setting performance makes her the world’s fastest Junior (under 20) in the event and she ranked No. 10 worldwide among women of all ages at the time of her selection. She has won 89 consecutive races after losing her first 200-meter race as a freshman.
“One year after the prep record (was broken with an 11.10), Candace Hill has pushed the envelope even further,” said Doug Binder, Dyestat editor in chief. “There’s been a lot of talk this spring about high school boys who’ve broken four minutes in the mile—and rightly so—it’s an exclusive club (of seven). But the first high school girl to break the 11-second barrier in the 100 meters? That club has only one member, and it’s Candace Hill. At 16, her potential is enormous and she is still learning the extent of her prodigious talent. In what is already shaping up to be a historic class of 2017, Hill’s achievements put her right at the top.”
Placing Hill’s record into context is awe-inspiring. In the entire NCAA, only one female ran a faster wind-legal time in 2015, and Hill’s 10.98 would have been good enough to win the NCAA 100-meter title in six of the past eight years. Only six women in NCAA history have run the 100-meter dash faster.
Hill won the 200-meter dash with a state-record time of 23.05 seconds as well as the 100 in a state-record 11.34 at the Class 6A GHSA Track & Field State Championships this spring, scoring 20 of her team’s 25 points to help the Bulldogs to a fifth-place finish. Georgia’s returning Gatorade Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year, she also won the Adidas Dream 100, the 200 at the Prefontaine Classic and both the 100 and 200 at the Great Southwest Classic. Her season-best times in the 100 and 200 rank as the nation’s No. 1 performances among prep competitors in 2015.
The teen’s milestone time in the 100 would have placed her seventh in the Olympic final at the 2012 London Games. Her average speed during her record run was 20.37 miles per hour. Lined up in a hypothetical race against multiple Olympic gold medalists Gail Devers and Allyson Felix or prep track legend Marion Jones, none of those three would finish within 4 1/2 feet of Hill as high school seniors in a 100-meter dash.
“They’re the best of the best in the sport,” Hill said. “Being faster than their high school selves when I’m a high school sophomore is amazing because I do expect to get faster as I get older.”
Hill has maintained a weighted 4.63 GPA in the classroom. An inductee into the National Society for High School Scholars, Hill is a member of her school’s Junior Beta Club and serves as an ambassador on behalf of the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology. She has also donated her time to a variety of charity initiatives to help the needy, including the Berean Christian Church clothing drive and the RMSST Food Pantry’s efforts to benefit the Rockdale Emergency Relief Center. In addition, she’s participated in holiday toy drives in association with multiple philanthropic organizations.