RIZEK & CLEVELAND TABBED TOP TRACK ATHLETES IN STATE
Haley Rizek of St. Pius X and Volcano Vista’s Jericho Cleveland were named the 2017-2018 Gatorade New Mexico Girls and Boys Track & Field Athletes 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 track.
Rizek won a pair of individual titles at the Class 5A meet this past season, leading the Sartans to fourth place as a team. Rizek broke the tape in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 45.02 seconds, then took gold in the javelin with a personal-best and state-record throw of 134 feet, 6 inches. At this month’s Great Southwest Classic, she took fifth in the heptathlon with 4,292 points. The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year, Rizek clocked New Mexico’s fastest times in the 100 and 300 hurdles times this spring, including an all-class state record and personal-best 14.39 in the former, and her PR in the javelin ranked as the nation’s No. 95 throw in 2018 among prep competitors at the time of her selection. She graduates as a four-time state champion in the 300 hurdles.
An active member of her school’s campus ministry mission, Rizek also led a Make-A-Wish Foundation of America campaign that raised over $10,000 in a single week. “It’s hard to imagine someone with such a fun-loving and pleasant demeanor can be as fierce of a competitor as is Haley Rizek,” said Albuquerque Academy head coach Adam Kedge, who coached 2008-09 Gatorade National Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year Curtis Beach. “She has competitive spirit and determination that is unmatched by her peers. Demonstrating a versatility and durability not often seen in top-end track athletes, she is equally talented in jumping, throwing and hurdling events. Her potential as a multi-discipline athlete is limitless and her heptathlon scores should explode in the years to come.”
Rizek has maintained a 3.72 GPA in the classroom and will attend the University of Pennsylvania this fall, where she will compete in track and field.
As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Rizek will be able to select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a grant as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program. Every Gatorade Player of the Year state winner receives a $1,000 grant to donate and will have the opportunity to enter for an additional $10,000 spotlight grant by writing a brief essay explaining why their selected organization deserves additional support. 12 spotlight grants – one for each sport – will be announced throughout the year.
Cleveland swept the 800-, 1600- and 3200-meter events at the Class 6A state meet this past season, leading the Hawks to second place as a team. Cleveland’s winning time of 1:52.59 in the 800 is a personal best, while his victories at 1600 and 3200 were a repeat of the outcome at the 2017 state meet. In addition to clocking a personal-best 4:07.89 at April’s Mt. SAC Relays, which ranked as the nation’s No. 5 time among prep competitors in 2018, he ran third in the mile at the adidas Boost Boston Games in 4:08.95 (U.S. No. 16). Cleveland also PR’d in the 3200 during his final prep campaign (9:17.64).
Cleveland has volunteered on behalf of Noon Day Ministries, the Sagebrush Community Church, the Road Runner Food Bank, Catholic Charities Refugee Outreach, Mission of Mercy Dental Services and Crossroads for Women, which serves battered and single mothers who are homeless. A former participant in the World View Academy Leadership School as well as the Teen PACT Government Leadership School, and a member of the Junior Toastmasters Gavel Club, Cleveland has completed a service-mission trip to Guatemala with Next Step Ministries in addition to donating his time to USATF Junior Olympic youth programs. “Jericho made the jump from a top quality in-state athlete to a national-caliber runner by sheer will and determination,” said Albuquerque Academy head coach Adam Kedge, who coached 2008-09 Gatorade National Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year Curtis Beach. “He trained with pin-point focus for a solid 18 months, never wavering no matter the obstacle or setback. The drive and motivation to achieve put him on the path to consistent top-quality performances this past spring. From the indoor into the outdoor season, all the way through state and national postseason Jericho, turned in elite performance after elite performance, proving he was one of the mid-distance and distance runners in the nation.”
Cleveland is home-schooled in affiliation with the Christian Association of Parent Educators and has maintained a 3.63 GPA in the classroom. He has signed a national letter of intent to compete on an athletic scholarship at the University of Colorado, beginning this fall.
Cleveland joins recent Gatorade New Mexico Boys Track & Field Athletes of the Year Jackson Morris (2016-17 & 2014-15, Albuquerque Academy), Alejandro Goldston (2015-16, Albuquerque Academy), Mike Budick (2013-14, Volcano Vista High School), Luis Martinez (2012-13 & 2011-12, Sue Cleveland High School), Eric Fenton (2010–11, Hope Christian School), Warrick Campbell (2009-10, Highland High School), Curtis Beach (2008–09 & 2007-08, Albuquerque Academy), and Matthew Tebo (2006-07, Eldorado High School) among the state’s list of former award winners.
As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Cleveland will be able to select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a grant as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program. Every Gatorade Player of the Year state winner receives a $1,000 grant to donate and will have the opportunity to enter for an additional $10,000 spotlight grant by writing a brief essay explaining why their selected organization deserves additional support. 12 spotlight grants – one for each sport – will be announced throughout the year.
RELEASE COURTESY OF KELSEY RHONEY/GATORADE