HIGH SCHOOL. It's a heady, heavy period in everyone's life, a time when we take our first tentative steps into adulthood. And, let's face it: The transition is often rocky. Tough classes, busy schedules, social anxieties, college prep pressures—it can be a stressful four years.
Can be. There are a select few kids who navigate adolescence as if someone handed them the answers to every test—in and out of the classroom—on the first day of freshman year. We're looking at you, Katelyn Tuohy and JT Daniels. Katelyn is only 16, but the rising junior at North Rockland High, in Thiells, N.Y., is already the country's best under-20 female distance runner, with national records in the 3,200 and 5,000 meters and in the outdoor mile. She has also maintained an A average. JT is 18, and he just graduated (in three years, with a 4.18 GPA) from Mater Dei High, in Santa Ana, Calif. He sped up his course work to graduate early because after his junior season he was already the top-ranked prospect in this year's college football recruiting class. He is already enrolled at USC and very well could be the Trojans' starting quarterback this fall.
The similarities between Katelyn and JT don't extend much beyond their status as high achievers. Katelyn is 5'4", quiet and studious, with parents who work diligently to shield their daughter from the media spotlight. JT is 6'2", outgoing with a sly sense of humor and a dad who at one point took a hiatus from his career so he could devote time to grooming his son for quarterback stardom.
These seeming opposites do have one other thing in common: Katelyn and JT are the national female and male Gatorade High School Athletes of the Year. (You can read their stories beginning on page 28.) Since 2003, when Gatorade first handed out the national AOY award, the honor has proved to be not only a prestigious recognition of teen success but also a stunningly accurate predictor of future stardom. (Take a look at this list of winners, below—recognize anyone?) And for the second year in a row, as part of a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED--Gatorade partnership, we're proud to feature the honorees on our cover.
Gatorade has been highlighting high school athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character since 1985. First, a player of the year is named in every state and Washington, D.C., in a dozen sports—six male and six female. From that pool a group of evaluators, including a rep from SI, chooses National Players of the Year in each sport. In 2003, Gatorade added another level, selecting overall Athletes of the Year from the six male and six female national POY finalists.
Katelyn and JT joined this select club at the annual Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year awards gala in Los Angeles on July 17; JT learned he was the male winner from Peyton Manning, and Katelyn was presented her award by Abby Wambach. In their own ways, they've already set themselves apart from their AOY predecessors. JT is the first male winner to take the honor as a junior. Katelyn, who was national POY in both girls' cross-country and girls' track and field, is the first athlete—male or female—to be named a Gatorade national player of the year in two sports.
High school, of course, is more beginning than culmination, and Katelyn and JT are still in the launch phases of their athletic careers. We wouldn't be surprised if there are more SI covers in their futures. But we're thrilled to welcome them to our select club now.
GATORADE HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
2003 LEBRON JAMES,basketball
2004 DWIGHT HOWARD,basketball
2005 GREG PAULUS,football
2006 GREG ODEN,basketball
2007 KEVIN LOVE,basketball
2008 MATT BARKLEY,football
2009 GARRETT GILBERT,football
2010 BRANDON KNIGHT,basketball
2011 DYLAN BUNDY,baseball
2012 JOHNATHAN GRAY,basketball
2013 ANDREW WIGGINS,basketball
2014 KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS,basketball
2015 KYLER MURRAY,football
2016 JAYSON TATUM,basketball
2017 MACKENZIE GORE,baseball
2018 JT DANIELS,football
2003 ALLYSON FELIX,track and field
2004 CANDACE PARKER,basketball
2005 CYNTHIA BARBOZA,volleyball
2006 TINA CHARLES,basketball
2007 MAYA MOORE,basketball
2008 CHANELLE PRICE,track and field
2009 SKYLAR DIGGINS,basketball
2010 CHINEY OGWUMIKE,basketball
2011 MORGAN BRIAN,soccer
2012 BREANNA STEWART,basketball
2013 MORGAN ANDREWS,soccer
2014 BRIANNA TURNER,basketball
2015 CANDACE HILL,track and field
2016 SYDNEY MCLAUGHLIN,track and field
2017 SYDNEY MCLAUGHLIN,track and field
2018 KATELYN TUOHY,cross-country/track and field