A dedicated ESPNHS team managed the Gatorade State Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year selection process, resulting in winners based on the program's three pillars: athletic production and impact in the 2011 season, high academic achievement and exemplary personal character.
THE WINNER: Claudia Saunders
School: Princeton (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Athletic achievement: Saunders raced to the Division I individual state championship this past season with a time of 18:04.50. The 2011 Greater Miami Conference Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year, she also earned fifth place at the 2011 Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional championships in 18:39.6 and qualified for the 2011 Nike Cross Nationals Final, crossing the line in 19:02.
Academic excellence: Saunders has maintained a 4.7 weighted GPA in the classroom.
Exemplary character: A member of her school’s Spanish Honor Society and co-president of its National Honor Society, she has volunteered locally on behalf of the National Children’s Leukemia Foundation and the American Red Cross.
“I can’t imagine many other girls in Ohio worked as hard as Claudia Saunders to become a state champion,” said Adam Thomas, head coach of rival Lakota East (Liberty Township, Ohio). “After she finished sixth at the state meet in 2010, she set out to do whatever it took to win in 2011.”
THE FUTURE: Saunders remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.