Gatorade(R) National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year: Lukas Verzbicas
CHICAGO, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ — In its 25th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with ESPN RISE, today announced Lukas Verzbicas of Carl Sandburg High School (Orland Park, Ill.) as its 2009-10 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. Verzbicas, who becomes just the second high school sophomore (of 213 honorees) to win Gatorade National Player of the Year honors in any sport, was surprised with the news during his fifth period class at Carl Sandburg High School by the first-ever Gatorade National Player of the Year and former NFL quarterback, Jeff George.
“Being named the first-ever Gatorade National Player of the Year was a really significant moment for me, so it felt great to surprise Lukas with the news and invite him into one of the most prestigious legacy programs in high school sports,” said former NFL quarterback Jeff George, a 14-year veteran of the league who threw for more than 27,000 yards during his career. “Gatorade has been on the sidelines fueling athletic performance for years, so to be recognized by a brand that understands the game and truly helps athletes perform is a huge honor for these kids.”
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 Verzbicas as the nation’s best high school boys cross country runner. A national advisory panel comprised of sportswriters and sport-specific experts from around the country helped select Verzbicas from more than 231,000 high school boys cross country runners nationwide. Verzbicas 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 5-foot-11 sophomore raced to the national title at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships this past season with a time of 15:07.8, breaking the tape 15 seconds ahead of the next-closest competitor to become the youngest champion in the event’s 31-year history. The 2009 Junior Duathlon World Champion, Verzbicas won the 2009 Class AAA state cross country championship in 14:07. The Eagles’ standout also took first at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional championships with a time of 15:34. As a freshman, Verzbicas set a national high school indoor record in the 5K with a time of 14:18.42 at the 2009 Nike Indoor Nationals. Verzbicas also owns national freshman class indoor records in the mile (4:15.43) and 3,000 meters (8:29.15) as well as the freshman outdoor record in the two-mile run (8:53.98).
A native of Lithuania who came to the United States at age nine, Verzbicas has maintained a 3.32 GPA in the classroom. He is a devoted parishioner of the Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis Lithuanian Catholic Mission community and has volunteered locally mentoring youth triathletes and runners on behalf of the Multisport Madness Triathlon Club.
“Entering the final two weeks of the 2009 cross country season, Verzbicas was one of a small handful of great candidates that could have finished as the season’s best,” said ESPN RISE/DyeStat Senior Editor Steve Underwood. “In the end, he had the last word, becoming the first sophomore to win the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships – with a fast and dominating performance in poor conditions – and completing an undefeated year.”
Verzbicas will begin his junior year of high school this fall.
“Without question, Lukas is deserving of recognition as the nation’s best high school boys cross country runner based on his statistics on the racecourse and the impact his accomplishments have had on Carl Sandburg High School’s success,” said Gatorade Senior Vice President of Sports Marketing Jennifer Storms. “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 and the Gatorade high school sports leadership team, which work 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:
- Reigning American record-holder in the mile Alan Webb
- WNBA all-time leading scorer and rebounder Lisa Leslie
- Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning
- Volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh
- American League MVP Joe Mauer
To keep up to date on the latest happenings, become a fan of Gatorade Player of the Year on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of former winners, and future announcement dates, visit http://playeroftheyear.gatorade.com.
ALL-TIME GATORADE NATIONAL BOYS CROSS COUNTRY RUNNERS OF THE YEAR YEAR NAME HIGH SCHOOL STATUS 2009-10 Lukas Verzbicas Carl Sandburg/Orland Park, IL High School Sophomore 2008-09 Reed Connor The Woodlands/The Woodlands, TX University of Wisconsin 2007-08 Chris Derrick Neuqua Valley/Naperville, IL Stanford University