For the more than 30 years, Gatorade has honored the nation’s most elite high school athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character with the Gatorade Player of the Year award. On July 13, the 12 Gatorade National Players of the Year from the 2015-16 season will gather in Hollywood, where the 13th annual Gatorade High 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.
This installment features National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year Drew Hunter from Loudoun Valley in Purcellville, Va..
Loudoun Valley High (Purcellville, Va.) senior distance talent Drew Hunter was named the 2015-16 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. A two-time Gatorade Virginia Runner of the Year, the 5-foot-11, 140-pound Hunter won the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships this past season with a time of 14:55.7, breaking the tape 12.2 seconds ahead of his closest competitor. Hunter was unbeaten at 5K in 2015 and clocked a 15:04 to win the Group 4A state title by 56 seconds, leading the Vikings to the state championship as a team. As part of a remarkable string of record-setting indoor performances this winter, he broke the national high school record in the mile for a second time this past weekend, crossing the line in 3:57.81 at Manhattan’s Millrose Games.
“I’m really caught off guard here,” said Hunter, 18, an Oregon signee. “You work really hard for stuff like this, but it’s still surprising when you’re recognized at this level. It’s always a goal, but when you when you see the names of past winners on this trophy, it’s special to see your name there too.”
Hunter is a three-time state cross country champion, a two-time Foot Locker South Regional title-winner and a two-time All-American in the sport. He set a course record in winning the 2015 Foot Locker South Regional championships with a time of a 14:26. He also owns three state track crowns and won a national indoor championship in the 2-mile as a junior. Hunter will enter his final outdoor campaign having already captured three silver medals—one each in the 1500, the mile and the 2-mile—at national title meets. Two years ago, he set a national sophomore record in the 3000 (8:16.31).
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. Hunter 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.
MORE: Q&A with Hunter
Hunter has maintained an unweighted 4.01 GPA in the classroom. In addition to donating his time as a youth basketball coach, he has volunteered locally as a mentor at his church, where he has instructed younger parishioners in basic theology. He also serves as the student teaching assistant at Loudoun Valley High’s Career Center.
Hunter is one of nine children, five of whom are adopted. His father, Marc Hunter, was a two-time NCAA Cross Country All-American at Cleveland State, while his mother, Joan (née Humphries), was a two-time Virginia state track champion in high school.