Oregon commit Andrew Hunter was named the 2015-16 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year in a surprise ceremony held at his high school Wednesday morning.
Hunter was taken to the assistant principal’s office, and then told he had an interview in the weight room. When the Louden Valley High School senior arrived, he was surprised by a room full of 50 cheering people.
“I thought I was going to win the award, but I didn’t know when or what they were going to surprise me,” Hunter said.
2004 U.S. Olympian and American Mile record holder Alan Webb handed him the award.
“It was a meaningful and poetic moment,” Webb said. “To give Drew something physical to hold onto and a way for me to hand off the responsibility of being a great runner.”
“He is the person I look up to,” Hunter said, “so it was special to have him give me the award.”
The Gatorade Company established the award in 1985 to honor the country’s top high school athletes. Since the recipients have included athletes like Peyton Manning, Maya Moore, Kerri Walsh and Andrew Wiggins.
Hunter fits in nicely with the group, as his own list of accolades is impressive. The returning Virginia Runner of the Year claimed the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships national title this season with a time of 14:55.7 — finishing 12 second ahead of the closest competition. He won the Group 4A state title while leading his team to the state championship. Hunter also made it through 2015 undefeated while setting a course record at the South Regional championships.
“I see the competitive spark inside him,” Webb said. “He has a lot of maturity, sees some of the mistakes that others make and does a good job of not making them.”
In addition to his athletic accomplishments, Hunter has been able to maintain a 4.01 GPA and volunteer as a youth basketball coach and as a mentor at his church.
Hunter is excited to join Oregon next year, looking forward to running with new training partners and being a part of a strong cross country team.
“I like coach Andy Powell and I think Eugene is the best place for me to chase my goals,” Hunter said.
Hunter is the second 2016 recruit to win Gatorade Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of fellow commit Katie Rainsberger, who won the girl’s award back in January.
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur