With an all-time national record highlighting her senior year resume, Mount de Sales star runner Juliette Whittaker is receiving monumental recognition.
On Wednesday, more came her way as she was named the 2021-22 Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Player of the Year.
The award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. A selection committee evaluates the nation’s top talent and selects one winner from each of the 50 states and Washington before selecting one recipient for the national award.
Whittaker, an 18-year-old Laurel resident who was recently named The Baltimore Sun’s high school girls Athlete of the Year a second straight time, becomes the first girl track and field performer from Maryland to win Gatorade’s national award. Whittaker was also The Baltimore Sun’s outdoor track and field Athlete of the Year this spring and the cross country Runner of the Year in the fall.
On Wednesday morning, Whittaker accepted the award from Gatorade at Mount de Sales in surprise fashion with family, friends, teammates and coaches on hand to celebrate with her.
“It means a lot. All the sacrifices, hard work and things I put into the sport, these awards — not that I do it for the awards or for the records or things like that — but when I’m working hard and am recognized with awards like these, it just means a lot to be recognized and supported,” she said.
A standout since her freshman year, Whittaker’s senior campaign kept getting better and better with her work in cross country and track and field.
Last month, at the USA Track & Field Under-20 Championships in Eugene, Oregon, the Stanford commit broke the high school girls national record in the 800 meters with a time of 1 minute, 59.04 seconds to qualify for the World U-20 Championships later this summer.
Running for Mount de Sales in the spring outdoor season, she captured the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 while anchoring the winning 4x400 relay team.
In her senior year, she was able to find an ideal balance to continue to grow in the sport she loves. She opened with her third IAAM A Conference cross country championship in the fall.
“I definitely think being patient is so important,” she said. “Obviously, I have so many goals but I also want to still enjoy the sport. So this year, I tried to have fun with every race and even sometimes when I didn’t hit my goals [I felt] that was OK and I just needed to learn from them.”
Whittaker is an equally outstanding student, maintaining a weighted 4.46 GPA and serving as class president for three years.
She faced top-notch competition for the national award. Among the state winners were 26 student-athletes who are committed to Division I programs, 12 repeat state Gatorade selections and 35 with a GPA of 3.75 and above.
“Juliette Whittaker exemplifies the positive impact sports can have on a person and their broader community, and we welcome her to the Gatorade Player of the Year family,” said Gatorade Chief Marketing Officer Kalen Thornton.
As the 36th winner of an award that started in the 1985-86 school year, Whittaker joins several elite athletes who went on to excel for the U.S. Women’s Track and Field Team. Among those previously honored include three-time recipient Marion Jones (1990 to 1993), Allyson Felix (2002-03) and repeat winner Sydney McLaughlin (2016 to 2018). Fox and McLaughlin are currently on the national team.
“The legacy of this award is definitely insane over all the sports, but specifically the track part of this award,” she said. “People like Sydney McLaughlin and Allyson Felix — both Olympians and world record holders that have won this award. Honestly, it’s such a shock to see my name in the company of theirs, but it’s also just a confidence boost that excites me for the future.”
Whittaker is the second Baltimore-area student-athlete to take home Gatorade’s top prize in their respective sports this school year. Last month, McDonogh senior Jacob Murrell, The Baltimore Sun’s boys soccer Player of the Year who totaled 41 goals and 20 assists in the fall, was named the 2021-22 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year.