High-SchoolPlayer-of-the-Year: Futsum Zeinessaillasse
January, 26, 2012
By Chad Konecky | ESPN.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- The time-honored adage of student-becomes-master took on a new hue Thursday morning as two-time U.S. Olympian Dathan Ritzenheim posed as a pupil at North Central (Indianapolis, Ind.) before popping up from his desk chair to surprise Panthers senior Futsum Zeinasellassie (FOOT-sum Zen-ih-sal-ahsee) with the 2011-12 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year trophy.
“It was just a normal Thursday and then Dathan Ritzenheim was standing there,” said Zeinasellassie. “I never thought I would win an award this big. Unbelievable. I’m in shock. On behalf of distance runners everywhere , I thank Gatorade and ESPNHS.”
The 5-foot-8, 134-pound Zeinasellassie raced to the Nike Cross Nationals Final championship this past season with a course-record time of 15:02.41. He broke the tape at the NXN Midwest Regional championships (15:42.8) as well as the Foot Locker Midwest Regional championships (14:58). Zeinasellassie finished second at the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships with a time of 14:52.1.
The returning Gatorade Indiana Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, he also won his third consecutive individual state championship in a course-record 14:48.8 en route to a meet-record 44-second margin of victory.
Susan Goldman/GatoradeFutsum Zeinasellassie raises his Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year trophy.
“He was completely shocked,” said Ritzenhein, the former American record-holder in the 5,000-meter run who twice earned Gatorade Michigan Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors from 1999-01. "He had no idea I wasn’t a normal kid in his class. That was awesome. He's super nice and really deserves this.”
Ritzenheim narrowly missed qualification for the 2012 Summer Games at this month’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, finishing in fourth place and just eight seconds off the pace that would have earned a berth. The 29-year-old is a three-time USA 12K Cross Country champion and represents America’s brightest hope for a medal in the 5K or 10K in London.
The 2003 NCAA Cross Country Champion at the University of Colorado, Ritzenheim twice won Foot Locker nationals as a prep star for Rockford (Mich.).