• 02-FEB-2022

2021-2022 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year Award Winner Natalie Cook

Flower Mound, TX [February 2, 2022] – In its 37th year of honoring the nation's most elite high school athletes, Gatorade today announced Natalie Cook of Flower Mound High School in Flower Mound, Texas, is the 2021-22 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year. Cook won the prestigious award for her accomplishments on and off the field, joining an impressive group of former Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Players of the Year who have combined for eight National Championships and five bronze medals.

Cook was surprised with the trophy by her family, coaches and teammates at school. Check out a video of the announcement here.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Cook as the nation's best high school girls cross country runner. The Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which leverages experts including coaches, scouts, media and others to evaluate candidates, selected Cook from nearly 300,000 other student-athletes who compete in girls cross country nationwide.

Competition for the national award was fierce. Cook topped the list of state winners in girls cross country who collectively boast an incredible list of accomplishments, including 13 returning state Gatorade Players of the Year, 24 with signed National Letters of Intent to run at Division I colleges/universities and 28 with a GPA of 4.0 and above.

“At the season’s start, Natalie Cook was a top-20 or so competitor nationally, and she finished third at the prestigious Woodbridge Invitational in California,” says Doug Binder, Dyestat.com Editor-in-Chief. “By December, she was the most dominant prep runner in the country. Her progress through the season propelled her to some amazing achievements, including becoming the first prep girl to win national titles in back-to-back weekends. She scorched the RunningLane championships course with the second-fastest 5K on record, then beat the strongest field of the year at the national Eastbay Cross Country Championships, which left no doubt about who was the top gun in 2021.”

The 5-foot-5 senior won an unprecedented two national titles this past season, capturing the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships with a time of 16:04 and breaking the tape at the Eastbay Cross Country Championships in 17:15. Cook also won the Class 6A individual state championship in 16:32.4, leading the Jaguars to the state title as a team. She added victories at the Eastbay South Regional Championships, the Region 1 championships and the District 6 championships, while placing third at the Woodbridge Classic. No prep girl has ever won the two culminating national championship races in a single cross country season.

Cook has volunteered extensively on behalf of local middle school cross country programs in addition to coaching and instructing youth track athletes every summer.

Cook has maintained a weighted 3.63 GPA in the classroom. She has signed a National Letter of Intent to run on scholarship at Oklahoma State University this fall.

“It’s really an amazing accomplishment to see your name on the Gatorade National Player of the Year trophy, next to so many greats like Jordan Hasay, Molly Seidel and Katelyn Tuohy,” said Gatorade Senior Vice President and General Manager Brett O’Brien. “All the hard work has paid off as Natalie is now a forever part of the Gatorade family and sports history.”

Each year, a selection committee evaluates the nation’s top talent to choose one state winner from each of the 50 states as well as Washington D.C., in 12 different sports: football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls track & field. In all, 608 athletes are honored each year. From the pool of state winners, one national winner is selected in each of the 12 sports.

Gatorade has a long-standing history of serving athlete communities and understands how sports instill valuable lifelong skills on and off the field. Since the program's inception in 1985, Gatorade Player of the Year award recipients have won hundreds of professional and college championships, and many have also turned into pillars in their communities, becoming coaches, business owners and educators. Previous winners include a distinguished list of athletes, such as Peyton Manning, Abby Wambach, Jayson Tatum, Elena Delle Donne and many other sports icons.

To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit playeroftheyear.gatorade.com or follow us on social media on Facebook at facebook.com/GatoradePOY, Instagram at instagram.com/Gatorade and Twitter at twitter.com/Gatorade.