In this file photo from Oct. 1, 2016, Juneau-Douglas High School cross country runner Sadie Tuckwood leads at the state girls cross country championships at Bartlett High School. Tuckwood won the state championship that year.

In this file photo from Oct. 1, 2016, Juneau-Douglas High School cross country runner Sadie Tuckwood leads at the state girls cross country championships at Bartlett High School. Tuckwood won the state championship that year.

The next Leah Francis? Tuckwood earns state Runner of the Year award

When Sadie Tuckwood won a state cross country championship as a freshman last fall, the Empire declared there was a new sheriff in town.

Now Tuckwood has been officially deputized. On Monday, Gatorade named her as the state girls Runner of the Year, making her just the second Juneau-Douglas High School girls runner to receive the award in its 10-year history.

It’s a badge of accomplishment she’ll carry in what promises to be an excellent high school career.

“It feels really, really great,” Tuckwood told coach Merry Ellefson after receiving the award.

The award includes a $1,000 grant toward a charity of the winner’s choice. According to Ellefson, Tuckwood has chosen the Body and Mind After School (BAM!) program, which coordinates a variety of after-school activities for students at both Dzantik’i Heeni and Floyd Dryden middle schools.

Tuckwood won the ASAA 4A Championships at Bartlett High School Oct. 1 in a blistering 18 minutes, 16 seconds. She completed the 5K race with the fastest recorded time by a freshman at the state meet, the fastest anyone not named Allie Ostrander has run since race officials began compiling times in 2002 (Ostrander, currently a sophomore at Boise State University, is a top collegiate runner).

At the time, JDHS coach Tristan Knutson-Lombardo called Tuckwood’s state win “one of the top performances this state has ever seen.”

“Sadie is a competitor. She is the kind of athlete who stays present, poised and makes decisions guided by her head and will,” Ellefson and Knutson-Lombardo wrote in their comments to Gatorade. “Her potential will continue to unfold, and she’s building a healthy relationship with running that will result in impressive and inspiring outcomes.”

Tuckwood won every race she entered this year, including the Ketchikan Invitational (19:55.97), the Petersburg Invitational (18:28.8), the Capital City Invitational (18:22.1) and the Region V Championships (18:12.5).

Thunder Mountain High School junior Erin Wallace came the closest to beating Tuckwood in regular season competition, finishing seven seconds behind her at the Ketchikan Invitational. After that, Wallace only came within a minute of Tuckwood once, finishing 57 seconds behind her at the Region V Championships, where Tuckwood set a personal record of 18:12.5.

Tuckwood won the state championship 13 seconds ahead of runner-up Kendall Kramer, a West Valley freshman (Wallace, at 19:17, finished fifth).

The 5-foot-4 transplant from Dillingham maintains a 4.0 GPA in the classroom. She skipped out on the Nike Cross Northwest Regional Championships meet in November to focus on settling into school and playing basketball.

Tuckwood joins Leah Francis (2008-09 and 2007-08) as the second JDHS girls cross country athlete to have won the cross country award.

Gatorade began the Player of the Year program in 1985, adding cross country to its list of 12 awarded sports in 2007. Juneau’s other Gatorade Player of the Year award winners include: Meghann Gleason (basketball, 1996); Carlos Boozer (basketball, 1998 and 1999); Chad Bentz (baseball, 1999); Justin Dorn (soccer, 2001); Robert Lossett (soccer, 2002); Callen Janowiec (volleyball, 2003); Laura Flynn (soccer, 2004); Tyler Dinnan (track and field, 2005 and 2006); Zach Mixson (baseball, 2005); Hannah Barril (softball, 2006); Dylan Ashe (soccer, 2006); Jessica Post (soccer, 2006); Chris Hinkley (football, 2006); Talisa Rhea (basketball, 2007); Carrie Ann Laliberte (softball, 2008); Joe Kohan (baseball, 2008); Colin Flynn (soccer, 2008); Brittany Fenumiai (softball, 2009 and 2010); Dylan Baker (baseball, 2010) and Jackson Lehnhart (soccer, 2013).

• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and

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