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DeBalsi named Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year

For the second consecutive year, Hannah DeBalsi of Staples High School has been named the 2014-15 Gatorade Connecticut Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

DeBalsi is the third FCIAC athlete to win a Gatorade athlete of the year award during the 2014-15 school year, joining New Canaan’s Zach Allen (football) and Darien’s Izzy Taylor (volleyball). DeBalsi is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award, which will be announced in January.

The Gatorade Runner of the Year award recognizes athletic excellence and “high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse.”

DeBalsi, a 5-foot-2 junior, raced to fifth place at the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships this past season with a time of 17:26. She repeated as the FCIAC champion, captured the Class LL state title in 18:14, and won the State Open championship with a time of 17:59.

DeBalsi also won the New England Cross Country Championships with a time of 17:58 and was runner-up at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional championships.

She has maintained a 4.13 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally on behalf of the Pequot Library and charity road races.

“Hannah is motivated not just to win meets, but to push herself beyond what she’s accomplished before,” Staples High head coach Amanda Morgan said. “She is the kind of athlete who would prefer to lose a close race and set a new personal record than to win a meet easily with a sub-par time.”

DeBalsi joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including Ryan Hall (1999-00, 2000-01, Big Bear HS, 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.) and Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.).

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.

Two-time winner DeBalsi joins Gatorade Connecticut Girls Cross Country Runners of the Year Brianna Lenehan (2012- 13, Norwich Free Academy), Reid Watson (2011-12, Glastonbury High School), Jackie Nicholas (2010-11, Nonnewaug High School), Lauren Sara (2009-10, Frank Scott Bunnell), Moira Kenny (2008-09, Immaculate), and Heather Stephens (2007-08, Ridgefield) as athletes who have won the cross country award since its inception in 2007.

Hannah DeBalsi of Staples, shown competing during the FCIAC X-C championship in October, has been named the Gatorade Connecticut Cross Country Runner of the Year for the second consecutive season. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Newspapers Photo)

Hannah DeBalsi of Staples, shown competing during the FCIAC X-C championship in October, has been named the Gatorade Connecticut Cross Country Runner of the Year for the second consecutive season. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Newspapers Photo)

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