Cherry Creek's Parker Wolfe Named Gatorade National POY

* Parker Wolfe was named Gatorade National Player of the Year on Thursday

Photo Credit: Colorado MileSplit

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CHERRY CREEK, COLORADO -- Parker Wolfe had a sneaking suspicion something was up when he saw his father walking the halls of Cherry Creek High School on Wednesday. 

Just a few hours earlier, he had been told about a mysterious interview he supposedly was going to do, but no one had really given him any details. 

"That was a little fishy about what was going on," Wolfe said. 

Like any curious high schooler, he did some investigating. Maybe asked some questions.  

"I kind of had a feeling something was off," he added. 

But he didn't have long, and just a short time later he was guided to the gymnasium, where he was met by teammates, coaches, family and friends. An award was being announced. 

Wolfe gave up his impromptu detective work. He was shocked. 

"I was still surprised," he said. "I did not know." 

Five months following an undefeated cross country season, one that saw Wolfe break multiple records at the Heritage Distance Classic and the Class 5A Colorado State Cross Country Championships, and claim his first national title a the RunningLane XC National Championships in November, he was named Gatorade National Player of the Year for his efforts. 

It wasn't anything new, though. 

Wolfe had been racking up awards in recent weeks and months. 

In December, MileSplit named Wolfe its MileSplit50 Cross Country Athlete of the YearLast week, Wolfe was named Gatorade's Colorado's State Player of the Year.

"It's awesome," said Wolfe, who is headed to the University of North Carolina next fall. "Especially with the year we've had, with all the national meets being canceled. All the other meets not going on. It's really awesome. I'm super excited. I wasn't really expected."

First though, consider this: This summer, Wolfe was one of many around the United States who contracted COVID-19. At some point, like many who questioned the longstanding effects of the virus, he wondered whether he would be the same. 

"Coming into the season and not knowing if I'll be a contender in a national meet at all," Wolfe said. "It's definitely icing on the cake, extra icing for me. Going through all these challenges during the season and having this pay off in the end is huge for me." 

Despite his fears, Wolfe remained focused. 

He dispelled those doubts pretty early on, hitting a new meet record at the Heritage Distance Classic in October, producing a 5K best and Colorado soil record of 14:30.10. 

Roughly a month later, he secured a new Colorado state record at the Class 5A Championships, netting a time of 15:10.40 at just over 6,000 feet of elevation. 

"It's pretty awesome," Wolfe told the Denver Post at the time. "I never thought I'd be here." 

But while he had won two very big races over the 2020 cross country season, he wasn't finished. Despite the cancellations of Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker Nationals, Wolfe set his sights on one national meet to end his season. 

Competing at the RunningLane National Cross Country Championships -- arguably the most competitive meet of the season -- he absolutely shattered expectations, finishing with the nation's top 5K time of 14:26.94, and grabbing a national title in the race's last moments. 

Wolfe's final surge at the championships illustrated just what was so special about his emerging talent. 

The Cherry Creek senior showed patience, poise and that ability to turn it on when the moment truly called for it. His win at RunningLane remained his favorite moment from the season. 

"I got to see all my friends, got to see all the other UNC commits I hadn't see in awhile," he said. "And then winning that race and being able to hold up that belt was a highlight of the season for me."

Wolfe won five straight races in 2020, including two efforts under 15 minutes. He finished his cross country career with four sub-15 performances at 5K, and was top 10 at the Colorado State Championships in his final three seasons. 

This fall, Wolfe was joined by Cherry Creek teammate Riley Stewart as Gatorade State Cross Country Players of the Year. 

On Wednesday, among those in attendance at the ceremony included his family and coaches.

Cherry Creek has become a hotbed for state- and national-talent in recent years. Last year's Gatorade Colorado State Player of the Year, Cherry Creek graduate Jana Van Gytenbeek, was also in attendance. 

"Coming into the season and not knowing if I'll be a contender in a national meet at all," Wolfe said. "It's definitely icing on the cake, extra icing for me. Going through all these challenges during the season and having this pay off in the end is huge for me." 

She was recently coming off an NCAA title with Stanford. 

Wolfe also got to see a friend from Philadelphia, who flew in for the announcement.

He thanked all of the people who were able to support him through his final run through cross country. 

"It was really awesome to see my coaches and celebrate it with them," Wolfe said. "They've put in a lot of work to help me over the last four years. I know it's exciting for them as well. It's cool I can share with them.

"Also my parents," he added. "I know they put in a lot of work to get me two races out of state. They've helped me throughout my high school career." 

Wolfe joins an illustrious list of former Gatorade champions, including last year's winner, Nico Young, along with Grant Fisher, Drew Hunter and Edward Cheserek. 

Young finished fourth last month at the NCAA Cross Country Championships for Northern Arizona.

"It's really cool, and to get the same award as Nico or Grant, those guys are really good runners," Wolfe said. "Hopefully I'll be on their level some day. I know I'll be running in college with Nico next year and around those guys that have won this award." 

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Parker Wolfe on his incredible XC season

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