NIWOT -- Elise Cranny won just about every race she entered during the 2012 cross country season. Gatorade thought compiling such an impressive list of victories warranted her Colorado's top prep award for her sport.
In collaboration with USA Today Sports, The Gatorade Company announced Thursday that Cranny is the 2012-13 Gatorade Colorado Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. The first Niwot student to win the award, Cranny said she was honored to bring the award back to Niwot High School.
"It's very exciting to work hard and see it pay off and be recognized," Cranny said. "Especially to represent your school and show everyone what Niwot High School is to Colorado is really cool."
Cranny came from behind to win the Class 4A state title at Norris Penrose Event Center in a time of 18 minutes, 41.36 seconds. She also won the Nike Cross Nationals Southwest Regional championships in 16:59.9, a new meet record, and finished seventh at the national championships with a time of 19:43.
A junior, Cranny also finished second at the Colorado state meet as a sophomore in 2011.
While she breezed through much of her competition, her impressive season didn't come without its question marks. Battling illness at the 4A state track and field championships in the spring left her with disappointing finishes in her events. That left her with extra motivation to come back stronger for cross country in the Fall.
"During track I got sick so I was doing everything I could to stay healthy and hoping all the little things would stack up," Cranny said. "I thought if I worked hard, all the racing and stuff would take care of itself."
Also this year's BoCoPreps.com Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, Cranny's athletic achievements were unparalleled but she also exemplified the other criteria for a Gatorade Runner of the Year. Now in its sixth year, the award recognizes athletic excellence, academic achievement and high character demonstrated both on and off the racecourse.
Cranny, who carries a 4.21 GPA at Niwot High, is also a member of the National Honor Society, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and does volunteer work for a food bank in her local community.
"Obviously, she put together the perfect season, undefeated in Colorado and winning the state championship," Niwot cross country coach Sam Catterson said. "They also look at more than her athletics and Elise does everything. She's a leader and she does the little things so that's probably why they picked her."
As a team, the Niwot girls finished 10th at the 2012 state meet. With Cranny returning as a senior next season, and having not graduated a single runner after the 2012 season, the future is bright for the Cougars cross country program.
"It's amazing," Catterson said. "One of the reasons they gave it to her is because she has a great relationship with her teammates. We get to enjoy another year of having the best kid out there that constantly works to make herself better and make her teammates better. We're really excited about that."
Cranny is now also a finalist for the Gatorade National Cross Country Runner of the Year award, which will be announced later in January.
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