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Westhill’s Claire Howlett receives Gatorade Athlete of the Year award

Westhill High School junior Claire Howlett competes at the FCIAC girls cross country championship meet in New Canaan's Waveny Park last fall. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Newspapers Photo)

Westhill High School junior Claire Howlett competes at the FCIAC girls cross country championship meet in New Canaan’s Waveny Park last fall. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Newspapers Photo)

In its 28th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, announced Claire Howlett of Westhill High School as its 2012-13 Gatorade Connecticut Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year. Howlett is the first Gatorade Connecticut Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year to be chosen from Westhill High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the track, distinguishes Howlett as Connecticut’s best high school girls track & field athlete.

Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year award to be announced in June, Howlett joins an elite alumni association of state award-winners in 12 sports, including Allyson Felix (2001-02, Los Angeles Baptist, Calif.), Derek Jeter (1991-92, Kalamazoo HS, Mich.), Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.), Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.), Lolo Jones (1997-98, Roosevelt HS, Ia.) and Bianca Knight (2006-07, Ridgeland HS, Miss.).

The 5-foot-7 junior won the 3,200-meter run with a state-record time of 10:20.03 and the 1,600-meter run in 4:53.97 at the State Open Championship this spring. At the Class LL divisional championships, Howlett broke the tape in the 3200-meter run in 10:20.03 and finished second in the 1600-meter run in 4:56.25. Her 3,200- and 1,600-meter run times at the state meet ranked No. 12 and No. 65, respectively, among U.S. prep competitors in 2013 at the time of her selection.

Also a cross country standout, Howlett has maintained a 4.54 weighted GPA in the classroom. The Online Editor-In-Chief of her school’s student newspaper, she has also donated her time on behalf of Westhill’s buildOn club, serving the Darien Book Aid, St. Luke’s Lifeworks and the Bruce Museum. She has also completed a service-mission trip to the Republic of Malawi.

“I have watched Claire Howlett over her last three years of running, and I only have good things to say,” said Jeff Brentson, head coach of rival McMahon High. “She’s an athlete that my kids and I will cheer for because she’s such a great example of what a student-athlete should be. She also works very hard to be competing at the level she is running. There are a number of  outstanding young ladies in our sport right now, but she’s definitely at the top of my list.”

Howlett will begin her senior year of high school this fall.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.

The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Howlett joins recent Gatorade Connecticut Girls Track & Field Athletes of the Year Precious Holmes (2011-12 & 2010–11, Hillhouse High School), Lindsay Crevoiserat (2009-10, Glastonbury), Meg Ryan (2008–09, Fairfield Warde), Anna Shields (2007-08, Lewis Mills), and Shaniqua Burgess (2006-2007, Hillhouse) among the state’s list of former award winners.

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