The cross country season may have ended in November, but the honors continue for Annie Fink of Runnels, who has been selected as the Louisiana Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year for 2019-20.
Fink won the LHSAA Class B title by setting a Natchitoches course record with a three-mile time of 18 minutes, 25.10 seconds. She finished 1:04 ahead of her next-closest competitor. The Raiders finished second in their class as a team.
Winning the Louisiana Gatorade honor makes Fink eligible to win the national award to be announced next month. Fink was selected as the All-Metro MVP by area coaches late last year.
"This means everything to me. I've focused so much on my training the last two seasons," Fink said. "And to get an award like this at the end of my senior cross country season is special.
"When coach Mark LaHaye (of St. Joseph's Academy) told my Mom we should apply for this, I wasn't even sure I would even be considered. So when I found out I won, I was surprised and excited."
Fink won five of eight races last fall and took second twice, avenging her only loss to an in-state runner at the NXN South Regional championships, where she crossed the finish line 50th in a 5K personal-best 19:21.78. She also posted a personal best at three miles last fall with a 17:43.75 at the Catholic Invitational, where she finished second to an out-of-state runner.
The Gatorade award recognizes athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field. Fink has served as a class representative and has donated her time as a gymnastics coach, a Louisiana Marathon volunteer and volunteers for numerous charity groups. She also is a three-year member of the Louisiana Youth Orchestra’s violin section.
"Annie's improvement from the end of her junior cross country season to the end of her senior cross country season has been nothing short of phenomenal," St. Joseph's Academy's LaHaye said. "Annie has transformed herself mentally and physically into an upper-tier competitor and college-ready athlete. This past season Annie worked tirelessly and with purpose and commitment to becoming the most dominating female cross country runner state wide."
Fink has a 3.86 grade-point average in the classroom. She is set to run cross country and track at LSU next year. Fink also is the second local runner in three years to win the award, joining St. Joseph’s Academy’s Lauren Hendry (2017-18).
As a part of Gatorade’s cause marketing platform “Play it Forward,” Fink has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of her choosing.