* Cade Flatt accepts Gatorade's trophy for National Track and Field Player of the Year
Photo Credit: Gatorade
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"I try to give everything I can for this community. That was a big reason I wanted to wear that high school jersey at U.S. Champs. I wanted kids to look up on the screen and see that Marshall County kid."
By Cory Mull - MileSplit
Hindsight is 20/20, especially for Cade Flatt.
But that doesn't make the challenges he's faced any easier. He just has the luxury of viewing it through a different lens now.
Because, listen, there's no better thing as perspective, especially when you've underwent a whirlwind period of life-living. These past five months have been nothing short of amazing for the Marshall County (KY) High School graduate.
Here's what he did: He claimed two national championships -- both indoor and outdoor -- in the 800m; he ran the second-fastest performance ever at the half-mile; he ran the second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh-fastest times in history this spring alone; he ran at the U.S. Track and Field Championships, finishing ninth overall; he made a name for himself; and most importantly, he put down the most memorable season for an 800m runner over the last 25 years.
He knows now that all the pressure he put on himself as a younger kid wasn't necessary. But how do you have perspective when you're 12, 13, 14?
"I'd tell my younger self, everyone's timing is different," Flatt said Tuesday after being named Gatorade's National Track and Field Player of the Year. "There are so many people that you look at it in the sport of track and field that I've seen; and I was like 'Why isn't that me? Why am I not there yet? Why haven't I blown up yet? Why haven't I ran this time? Why can't I do this?'
"You just have to be patient. You have to trust yourself. You have to wake up one day and be unhappy where you are," Flatt said. "I would have told myself sooner and said, 'You can take this as far as you want to, Cade.' It took me until this year to realize that."
It's taken a roller-coaster few years for the Ole Miss recruit to realize that sometimes things happen when you're willing to make them happen. He did just that in 2022.
While Flatt came up just short of eclipsing Michael Granville's 26-year-old record of 1:46.45 in the 800m, finishing his year with a PR of 1:46.48 at New Balance Nationals Outdoor in June, he closed with the single-most dominant high school season at the half-mile since the new millennium. His performance was a top 200 time in the World.
Granville noticed. He communicated with Flatt over DMs this season as the Kentucky native was chasing down his marks.
"We had a couple talks through Instagram," Flatt said. "He's a great guy. I'm sure a lot of people thought he's maybe against me or I'm against him. No, he's a great guy. He's been nothing of supportive all the way."
Perhaps credit goes out to his Kentucky roots. He said Tuesday that he credits much of his success to those who have shaped him.
"I'd say it has a huge. It's a big part," he said. "...I grew up like every other normal kid here. I grew up with a normal friend group outside athletics. Since everything started taking off, whether it was Junior Olympics back in middle school, or this year in this crazy ride I've been on, I've had the support of everybody, whether it's government officials here in Marshall County, community members, family, family friends.
"People I don't know with kids who are in athletics and stuff, I try to give everything I can for this community. That was a big reason I wanted to wear that high school jersey at U.S. Champs. I wanted kids to look up on the screen and see that Marshall County kid."
Flatt's season picked up significantly in June with the onset of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Class 3A Track and Field Championships, which saw the Ole Miss recruit secure his second straight state title in a time of 1:52.93.
"Me and Coach Vanhoy, I said, our relationship is great," Flatt said. "He's a great guy. He's been nothing but great to me. He made a decision that was best for him. I can't blame him. But with the new guy, new coach coming in, coach Adam Smith, we've had a bunch of great talks. I met him the other day. He's a great guy. We're going to rock it together.
From there, he once again set the bar at seemingly impossible heights, proclaiming his intention to go after the high school national record in Philadelphia at New Balance Nationals Outdoor.
He ultimately wasn't far off.
In fact, Flatt ran just five-tenths off of the record -- the performance would be his fastest on the season -- clocking a final time of 1:46.48.
Feeling his season wasn't finished yet, Flatt opted against qualifying for the World U20 Championships in favor of putting himself in front of the nation's best men's 800m runners -- professionals and collegians with PRs in the range of 1:44s, 1:45s and 1:46s.
Again, Flatt pounced on his moment.
The Marshall County native was second overall in the first round of the 800m, securing a time of 1:46.53. A day later, he clocked a time of 1:47.01 in the semifinals, ending his two-day run, the first athlete out to reach the finals.
So what's next?
In recent weeks, the coach who recruited Flatt to Ole Miss has left for different pastures: In June, Ryan Vanhoy was announced as Cal Poly's new Director of Track and Field.
Which means, Flatt will have someone different leading him into 2023 than he expected. But he's learned to roll with change.
"Me and Coach Vanhoy, I said, our relationship is great," Flatt said. "He's a great guy. He's been nothing but great to me. He made a decision that was best for him. I can't blame him. But with the new guy, new coach coming in, coach Adam Smith, we've had a bunch of great talks. I met him the other day. He's a great guy. We're going to rock it together. Ole miss is still the plan. Taking it to new heights with that guy."
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "Who's to say coach Smith comes in and he's (not) a better fit for me? Everything happens for a reason. You can't sit there and be upset about something you can't control. There's no other place I'd rather be. I chose it for the coach, but I chose it for the teammates. I chose it for everything else."
Gatorade National AOY Winners Since 2000:
- 2021: Hobbs Kessler
- 2020: Nico Young
- 2019: Matthew Boling
- 2018: Anthony Schwartz
- 2017: Mondo Duplantis
- 2016: Michael Norman
- 2015: Michael Norman
- 2014: Trentavis Friday
- 2013: Trayvon Bromell
- 2012: Abraham Hall
- 2011: Gunnar Nixon
- 2010: Sam Crouser
- 2009: Curtis Beach
- 2008: German Fernandez
- 2007: Bryshon Nellum
- 2006: David Klech
- 2005: Ryan Whiting
- 2004: Jason Richardson
- 2003: Kerron Clement
- 2002: Brendan Christian
- 2001: Alan Webb
- 2000: Donald Sage Jr.