Newly-announced Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year Andrew Hunter poses with 2004 U.S. Olympian and American Mile Record Holder Alan Webb moments after being presented with his trophy at Loudoun Valley High School on Wednesday, Feb. 24. Contributed photo.
Drew Hunter first thought it might be possible to break a four-minute mile last year when he was a junior at Loudoun Valley High School.
Drew said he posted a 4:02 then and set a goal to improve. He never broke the mark in training, rather saving it for the national stage.
Drew ran a 3:58.25 at the Armory Track Invitational in New York City on Saturday, Feb. 6. In doing so, he set a new U.S. high school record, eclipsing the 3:59.86 mark set by Alan Webb in 2001.
On Feb. 20, Drew broke his own record at the Millrose Games, posting a 3:57.81. In two weeks time, Drew had dropped the American record by two seconds.
Another important day in Drew's life was Wednesday, Feb. 23, when he arrived at school to learn that he had been named Gatorade's National Cross Country Runner of the Year. Alan Webb, a former winner of the honor, was on hand to present Drew with a trophy. His cross country and track teammates joined in the surprise celebration by waving pictures of Drew's face on a stick.
"I still remember the day when I was honored as the Gatorade National Boys Track & Field Runner of the Year. Winning the award is one of the most memorable moments in my career," said Webb. "It's such a coveted accomplishment, so I was honored to surprise Andrew with the award on behalf of Gatorade."
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 Hunter as the nation's best high school boys cross country runner.
A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Hunter from nearly 250,000 high school boys cross country runners nationwide. Hunter is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.
Hunter has maintained a 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 teaching assistant at Loudon Valley High's Career Center.
Hunter has signed a National Letter of Intent to run cross country on scholarship at the University of Oregon this fall.
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.
Drew took the stage to a standing ovation to thank Gatorade, saying it was â€œcool and special to be a part of the player of the year club. "He thanked his teachers, friends and family." He thanked his parents, calling them "the best coaches in the country." He thanked the Loudoun Valley administration for keeping the event a surprise. He thanked the sports medicine doctors who keep him running. Finally, he thanked Webb who â€œpushes me every day to match his records.