Northwest High School senior Diego Zarate has been selected as the 2014-15 Gatorade Maryland Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguishes Zarate as Maryland’s best high school boys cross country runner.
Zarate is a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year award to be announced later this month. Zarate 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.), Kevin Garnett (1992-93, Maudlin HS, S.C.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.) and Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.).
The five-foot, nine-inch, 130-pound senior raced to the Class 4A West Regional individual championship this past season with a time of 15:26.1. A 2014 Washington Post Fall First Team All-Met selection and the 2014 All-Gazette Boys Runner of the Year, Zarate won 10 of 11 meets in which he competed this fall and earned bronze at the Class 4A state meet in 15:56.3, leading the Jaguars to a fourth-place finish as a team.
“Diego Zarate has changed from the small little guy he used to be into the well-rounded student athlete leader he is today,” said Northwest High head coach Robert Youngblood. “Something inside of him, ever since he was younger, has always pushed him to go above and beyond. He has never been satisfied with being merely average and always wanted to do better.”
Zarate has maintained a 3.78 GPA in the classroom. A member of the National Honor Society, he has volunteered locally on behalf of Germantown HELP, Inc., The Lord’s Table soup kitchen and as a peer tutor.
Zarate has signed a National Letter of Intent to run on an athletic scholarship at Virginia Tech beginning this fall.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in each state in 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.
Caption: Diego Zarate competiting in the 4A West Regional Cross Country Championship in October. He would eventually take first place in the County Championships.
Photo courtesy Northwest Atheletics Department.