Skip to content

Ritzenhein receives Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year Award

The Gatorade Player of the Year Program has a nearly 40-year history of recognizing young athletes on their journey to greatness
Addison “Addy” Ritzenhein won the Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year Award

Addison “Addy” Ritzenhein, a standout sophomore and reigning National Cross Country Champion at Niwot High School, experienced a monumental surprise winning the coveted 2023-24 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year Award.

The highly anticipated moment unfolded on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. as Ritzenhein was completely unaware of the tremendous honor that was being handed to her by none other than Katelyn Tuohy, a four-time Gatorade National Player of the Year, the winningest Gatorade Player of the Year in history, delivering a heartwarming spectacle.

“The Gatorade Player of the Year Program has a nearly 40-year history of recognizing young athletes on their journey to greatness,” said Gatorade President and General Manager Michael Del Pozzo. “Our iconic alumni have gone on to win world championships, start businesses and become Hall of Famers, and we can’t wait to see the incredible legacy Addison will leave behind.”   

It’s Gatorade’s 39th year of honoring the nation’s most elite high school athletes for excellence on and off the field of play. Ritzenhein joins an impressive group of former Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Players of the Year who have combined more than eight National Championships and five bronze medals. 

Ritzenhein was selected from more than 300,000 other student-athletes who compete in high school girls’ cross country nationwide.  

As the sun bathed the Niwot High track in a sharp morning glow, friends, family and members of the track and field team eagerly gathered to surprise Ritzenhein. The crisp Colorado air carried an air of anticipation as everyone awaited the arrival of the unsuspecting cross-country star. The atmosphere was a mix of excitement and nervous energy, knowing that this day would be etched in Ritzenhein’s memory forever.

Surrounded by the scenic beauty of the Colorado landscape, the moment unfolded as Tuohy stepped onto the track to present the prestigious trophy. Ritzenhein’s friends and family, unable to contain their joy, showered her with hugs and cheers, creating a cocoon of support and celebration. The hefty-sized trophy slung low in her arms, a symbol of Ritzenhein’s dedication and excellence, marking a milestone in her already illustrious cross-country career.

“I really honestly thought that it was just a quick local interview or something. So, it was such a big surprise, and I’m so grateful. It was amazing. Especially my entire team, my family, my friends — they were all so happy. It was amazing. It was such an amazing moment,” Ritzenhein expressed, reflecting on the unexpected honor.

While Ritzenhein attributes much of her success to Coach Kelly, she acknowledged her father’s influence, Dathan Ritzenhein, who won Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 1999-00 and 2000-01, was a runner with the CU Buffs, is a three-time national cross-country champion and went on to compete in the Olympics.

“I really listened to Coach Kelly, but my dad gives me some tips and tricks here and there. And we can talk about some running stuff. But nothing too deep,” Addy Ritzenhein said.

Looking ahead, Addy Ritzenhein plans to showcase the award in her room, possibly on a mantle. When asked if this achievement would serve as motivation in future races, she confidently replied, “Yeah, this will be with me for the rest of my life.”

In describing the camaraderie within her cross-country team, she expressed that it was a close-knit group where everyone were friends. They spent time together outside of practice at school and have a strong culture of pushing each other to improve. 

“We really push each other to be better,” Addy Ritzenhein said. “We’re all best friends, and our culture is so strong, especially with the boys’ team. We’re all just really close together. And being able to share these moments together really makes us more than friends, more like a family.”

Expressing her sentiments, Katelyn Tuohy highlighted the prestigious nature of the award and conveyed that passing the torch to Addy Ritzenhein was an honor. Tuohy described Ritzenhein as a special young lady and expressed confidence in her continued success.

Reflecting on her own experience, Tuohy found it intriguing to be on the opposite end of the award presentation. Winning was a special moment for her in high school, and she expressed the coolness of witnessing Addy Ritzenhein’s journey.

“She’s a special young lady, and I know she’ll continue to succeed in the future,” Tuohy said. “When I won, it was really special. It’s cool to see her win now, and me being able to see this kind of in a full-circle moment. Me being able to hand the trophy to her and kind of see the outside perspective. So, yeah, it’s really cool.”

Gatorade Players of the Year are not only the best of the best in their respective sports, but they’re also leaders in the classroom and their communities. A member of the Niwot High School Leadership Academy and a Student Aide at her school, Addy Ritzenhein is also a member of her school’s choir. She has volunteered locally on behalf of the REAL Training youth running club and in the concession booth for NHS boosters.