Ava Parekh Named Gatorade Illinois Girls Cross Country Player of The Year

Gatorade announced Latin junior Ava Parekh as the Gatorade Illinois girls cross country runner of the year on April 8. Gatorade defines the recipient as a person with “not only outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.”

Ava is the first Latin athlete to receive this award, but her dedication and talent make this recognition no surprise. Junior McKenna Fellows said, “After having been a teammate to Ava for the past nine years, it makes me proud beyond words to see her succeed on this scale. I know that her journey as a runner has only just begun, and I am delighted to continue supporting her both on and off the course as she takes her talents to new heights.”

High school cross country coach Jim Spivey credited Ava’s athletic ability for bringing “the entire team to a new level of attitude and fitness,” and Ava’s teammate and most formidable in-school competitor, senior Marianne Mihas, spoke admirably of Ava, saying, “She is so focused and driven, and it’s pretty amazing that I and the rest of the track and cross country team get to show up every day and practice with such an elite runner. It really elevated the level of the rest of the team. She’s truly an amazing athlete, and she completely deserves the recognition of this award by Gatorade.”

Senior Olivia Syftestad shared similar remarks, saying, “Her dedication to the sport is not only reflected in her many accomplishments—like this Gatorade award—but in the way that she inspires her teammates to train harder and reminds us why we love to run.”

Ava couldn’t be more excited about earning the distinction. “I was so thrilled to hear I won, especially considering how many incredible distance runners there are in Illinois. It was really exciting to be chosen among them.” Illinois is known as one of the most competitive states for high school cross country. In addition to some free Gatorade merchandise, Ava was awarded a $1,000 grant that she can allocate to a youth sports organization of her choosing. And, while this title is an individual honor, Ava was quick to thank her support systems, saying, “Winning the Gatorade Runner of the Year Award means a lot to me. Everyone on the Latin cross country team worked so hard this fall, and to have that recognized was really special.”

Reflecting on a cross country and indoor track season well done, Ava finished off the year with personal records of a 4:47.17 mile (a performance that landed her MileSplit “National Performer of the Week” honors), 10:15.96 for two miles, and 16:33 for the three-mile cross country distance. Her indoor track times this year were among the best of any high school girls in the entire nation. But Ava strives to be even better, as she described that moving forward with her running career, she is “looking forward to outdoor track season. Latin has one of the best distance teams in the state, so I am excited to see what we can accomplish this season.”

Ava’s teammates share her excitement. Olivia said, “Although it is going to be very difficult to leave her next year, I know Ava has the brightest future ahead and can’t wait to see everything she accomplishes.”

Marianne commented, “I’ve been running with Ava for almost 10 years now, and I couldn’t be prouder of her. She has worked so hard for so long, and she earned this award 110%.”