Flower Mound High School Senior Natalie Cook has been named the 2021-22 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.
The award, which recognizes outstanding athletic excellence and 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, according to a company news release. 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.
“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,” said 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.”
Cook 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. She has maintained a weighted 3.63 GPA in the classroom, and she’s 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.”