MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In its 38th year of honoring the nation’s most elite high school athletes, Gatorade recently announced Irene Riggs of Morgantown High School in Morgantown, W.Va. is the 2022-23 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.
Riggs 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 more than eight National Championships and five bronze medals.
Riggs was surprised with the trophy by her family, coaches and teammates at school. Check out a video of the announcement here.
The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes athletes not just for their excellence on the playing surface, but for their commitment in the classroom and impact in their community. Riggs beat out nearly 300,000 other student-athletes who compete in girls cross country nationwide, topping the list of state winners in cross country who collectively boast an incredible list of accomplishments, including 23 with signed National Letters of Intent to run cross country at Division I colleges/universities and 40 with a GPA of 4.0 and above.
“A three-time state champion and the first West Virginian in history to win a national prep cross country title, Irene Riggs did so in remarkable fashion, overcoming cold, windy conditions at Nike Cross Nationals to clock a 16:40.90, which ranks as the No. 2 mark ever run at Glendoveer Golf Course in Oregon,” said Erik Boal, editor for DyeStat.com. “Strikingly, that national championship run wasn’t even her most memorable performance; she raced to the second-fastest girls high school 5K time in history with her 16:02.10 at the Nike Southeast Regional, eclipsing the 2019 WakeMed course record—previously held by three-time Gatorade National Player of the Year Katelyn Tuohy—by 20 seconds.”
In addition to her finishes at the Nike Cross Nationals and Nike Southeast Regional, the 5-foot-8 senior also won the Group 3A individual state championship this season, which sparked the Mohigans to a state title as a team. The three-time Gatorade Player of the Year in cross country was unbeaten during the 2022 campaign and has picked up where she left off in the new year, breaking the tape this past weekend to win the U-20 title at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships, clocking a 19:44.3 over 6K to beat three other Gatorade Player of the Year winners who placed in the top five.
The Vice President of the student body at Morgantown High School, Riggs has served as social media coordinator for Mohigan Idol, a Monongalia County talent competition that fundraises for WVU Children’s Hospital. Also a student council representative at Morgantown High School, she has donated her time as a youth coach for Club Mountaineer Aquatics and as part of the Strawberry 5K fundraiser supporting her high school.
Riggs maintains a 4.22 unweighted GPA in the classroom. She has signed a National Letter of Intent to run on scholarship at Stanford University this fall.
In addition to excellence on and off the field of play, Gatorade Players of the Year also pay it forward for the next generation. As part of Gatorade’s Play it Forward initiative, Riggs will receive a grant to give to one of Gatorade’s social impact partners – Athlete Ally, Laureus USA, Move United, Women’s Sports Foundation and Up2Us Sports – supporting Gatorade’s ambition to fuel the future of sport.
“The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes those who are on their journey to greatness both on and off the field of play,” said Michael Del Pozzo, president and general manager of Gatorade. “Irene’s athleticism, paired with her outstanding contributions in the community and success in the classroom make her a natural choice for Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.”
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.
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.