Texas standout named nation's top high school performer
HOUSTON - (February 4, 2009) - In its third decade of honoring the nation's best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in partnership with ESPN RISE Magazine, has announced senior distance runner Reed Connor of The Woodlands High School (The Woodlands, Texas) as its 2008-09 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Connor is the fourth student-athlete from the greater Houston area to win Gatorade National Player of the Year honors in any sport, joining current Stanford basketball standout Nneka Ogwumike (2007-08, Cy-Fair High School, Cypress), U.S. Olympian Cat Osterman (2000-01, Cypress Falls High School, Cypress) and track & field world record holder Kerron Clement (2002-03, La Porte High School, LaPorte).
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguishes Connor as the nation's best high school boys cross country runner. A national advisory board comprised of sportswriters and sport-specific experts from around the country helped to select Connor from more than 221,000 high school boys cross country runners nationwide. Connor is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year Award, to be presented at a special afternoon ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.
The 6-foot-1 senior won the Nike Cross Nationals Final this past season, breaking the tape in a course-record time of 15:13.6 and leading the Highlanders to a fourth place finish as a team. Connor clocked the second-fastest time in the history of the Texas state meet at Old Settler's Park to win the 2008 Class 5A state title, and broke course records with his wins at the Andy Wells Invitational and the Aldine Invitational. Connor also won the Chile Pepper Festival in Arkansas, becoming the third prep runner to ever run sub-15:00 at the meet. At the Nike Cross Nationals South Regional Final, Connor set a course record with a time of 14:56.8 while qualifying for the national final.
Connor has maintained a 3.70 GPA in the classroom. An Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America and a member of his school's Principal's Leadership Council, he has volunteered as a student-ministry usher and as part of multiple service-mission trips and retreats for his Christ Church United Methodist community. He has also donated his time at area youth road races and track camps.
"He showed all the qualities of a true champion this past season," said Marc Bloom, Publisher of The Harrier's High School Cross Country Report. "He ran fast times and broke records. He's a great team leader on a great team. He ran a courageous race to beat an expanded and deeper-than-ever field at the Nike Cross Nationals Final. Many of the best runners in the country were from Texas this year and he won the state title. If you look at the people he beat over the course of the season and those who were peaking for the national final, it's a pretty impressive list."
Connor, who joins 2007-08 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year Chris Derrick as the only other male to win the honor, remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.
"Without question, Reed is deserving of recognition as the nation's best high school boys cross country runner based on his performance and the tremendous ability he's demonstrated," said Gatorade Senior Vice President of Sports Marketing Jeff Urban. "But he is also a shining example to peers and aspiring young players of what a leader and a student-athlete should be. He represents everything we hope for in a Gatorade Player of the Year recipient."
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by ESPN RISE Magazine, which works with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Former notable Gatorade National Players of the Year include:
* U.S. record holder in the mile Alan Webb
* Reigning 200 meter world champion Allyson Felix
* 2007 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning
*WNBA all-time leading scorer and rebounder Lisa Leslie
For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information and lists of past winners and future announcement dates, visit: Gatorade.com/.
Ryan Lamppa, Running USA Media Director
(805) 696-6232; Fax = (805) 659-0016