Gatorade, in collaboration with ESPN RISE, named Stanford commit Aisling Cuffe of Cornwall Central High School (New Windsor, N.Y.) as its 2010-11 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Cuffe was surprised with the news during her sixth period class last week by professional runner and Summer Games gold medalist Allyson Felix, who won the Gatorade National Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year award in 2002-03, before capturing Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year honors in 2003.
“When I received the award in 2003, it was such a pivotal moment for me as an athlete. I’m grateful to be a part of this moment for Aisling, who is truly a phenomenal student-athlete on and off the racecourse,” said Felix, a seven-time IAAF World Champion.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character, distinguishes Cuffe as the nation’s best high school girls cross country runner. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Cuffe from nearly 202,000 girls cross country runners nationwide. Cuffe is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.
The 5-foot-4 senior enjoyed an unbeaten season and raced to the national title at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships this past fall with a time of 16:53, breaking the tape 34 seconds ahead of her next-closest competitor. The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, Cuffe captured the Class A state title in 17:19.6 and won the all-class New York Federation Championship with a course-record time of 17:17. She added victories at the Great American Cross Country Festival, the Manhattan Invitational and the Foot Locker Northeast Regional championships (in 17:51).
Cuffe has maintained an A average in the classroom. A four-year member of the Cornwall Central Math Team and its returning high-scorer, Cuffe has donated her time to and fund-raised for multiple local and national community-service initiatives in association with her school’s Key Club chapter. Also a member of the National Honor Society, she has volunteered on behalf of area youth road races and track invitational meets.
“Aisling Cuffe more than fulfilled expectations as the top returner at Foot Locker nationals, tearing through her regular season undefeated and then triumphing in San Diego with disarming ease,” said ESPN RISE/Dyestat Senior Editor Dave Devine. “Her 34-second margin of victory at Foot Locker over Nike Cross Nationals Final champion Rachel Johnson was the race’s largest since 2001, and only emphasized Cuffe’s status as the top girl in the nation this fall.”
Cuffe, who is just the third female student-athlete from the state of New York to ever win Gatorade National Player of the Year honors in any sport, has verbally committed to an athletic scholarship at Stanford University beginning 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. Award alumni include Peyton Manning, Lisa Leslie, and Zach Grienke.