Make it a clean sweep and yet another bit of history for Gabrielle Jennings.
Jennings, a senior at First Baptist Christian School in Slidell, was named Louisiana’s Gatorade cross country Runner of the Year for a fourth consecutive season Thursday.
She perhaps could have won it more, but Gatorade doesn’t award the honor to eighth-graders.
“It’s great to win it again,” Jennings said. “We have been shooting for it every season, so to actually get it every season is pretty awesome. It feels like the goals are fulfilled.”
Jennings is the only Louisiana athlete in any sport to win the Gatorade honor four times.
She surpassed the five other former Louisiana athletes who won the honor three times: Huntington’s Teresa Foster (girls track and field, 1989-91); De La Salle’s Toli Savvaides (boys soccer, 1991-93); Sacred Heart’s Shamekia Louis (girls track, 1999-2001); Vandebilt Catholic’s Rachel Laurent (girls track, 2006-08); and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Malia Cali (girls cross country, 2008-10).
Jennings was an obvious choice for the award after capturing a state-record eighth consecutive Class C state championship with a time of 18:27.70. Her time was the fastest among all classifications.
She also won the title at the Amateur Athletic Union National Cross Country Championship in the 17-18 age division with a time of 18:12.8, recording the fastest 5K among Louisiana prep competitors in 2015.
Jennings has won 38 state titles in cross-country and track since she began competing as a fifth-grader.
“I personally have a sixth-grade daughter that competes in cross country, and she looks up to Jennings — and they all want to be like her, including getting good grades, high ACT scores, being the best Louisiana cross country runner and going on to a Division I school to compete,” said Miguel Becerra, coach at St. Thomas Aquinas. “I also love the way she presents herself to her competition, always positive and encouraging her competitors, even after she finishes the race one to two minutes ahead of them.”
The Gatorade award recognizes not only her success on the race course, but also in the classroom and in her community.
Jennings, who will run collegiately at Furman, sports a 3.54 grade-point average and serves in her school’s student government. In addition to donating her time as a youth running instructor, she has volunteered on behalf of her church, the First Baptist Christian School, the National Beta Club and World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization.
Jennings, who was also named The New Orleans Advocate’s cross country runner of the Year, will compete in an indoor meet at the University of Arkansas on Saturday. Then she will return to complete the indoor track season Feb. 20 and then outdoor in the spring to finish off a stellar career.
She will likely add to what has been an ever growing list of medals and honors.
“A lot of times, I will forget how many state titles I have won,” Jennings said. “It’s written down somewhere.”