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In its 37th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, Gatorade today announced Rendon Kuykendall of Hope Christian High School is the 2021-22 Gatorade New Mexico Boys Cross Country Player of the Year. Kuykendall is the first Gatorade New Mexico Boys Cross Country Player of the Year to be chosen from Hope Christian High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Kuykendall as New Mexico’s best high school boys cross country player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Player of the Year award to be announced in February, Kuykendall joins an elite alumni association of state award-winners in 12 sports, including Lukas Verzbicas (2010-11 & 2009-10, Carl Sandburg High School, Orland Park, Ill.), Megan Goethals (2009-10, Rochester High School, Rochester Hills, Mich.), Jordan Hasay (2008-09, Mission College Preparatory Catholic High School, San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and Chris Derrick (2007-08, Neuqua Valley High School, Naperville, Ill.).

The state’s returning Gatorade Player of the Year in boys cross country, the 5-foot-8, 125-pound junior won the Class 4A state meet this season with a time of 15:24.9, breaking the tape 17.0 seconds ahead of his next-closest competitor and leading the Huskies to a third-place finish as a team. Kuykendall kicked off his national meet postseason with a third-place finish at the Nike Cross Southwest Regional Championships. He also took 14th at the national Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships with a state-record time of 14:25.76, missing All-American status by less than two seconds.

A member of the Hope Christian High School National Honor Society, Kuykendall has volunteered locally on behalf of multiple community service initiatives through his church. “Rendon is a model leader in our program and he has been since his freshman year,” said Shane Cleveland, head coach of Hope Christian High School. “Rendon will eventually be in the [mix] of the most talented that New Mexico has ever produced.”

Kuykendall has maintained a weighted 4.50 GPA in the classroom. He will begin his senior year of high school this fall.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction 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 Player of the Year Selection Committee, which leverages experts including coaches, scouts, media and others as sources to help evaluate and determine the state winners in each sport.

Two-time winner Kuykendall joins recent Gatorade New Mexico Boys Cross Country Players of the Year Galvin Curley (2019-20, Navajo Pine High School), Kashon Harrison (2018-19, Kirtland Central High School), and Kashon Harrison (2017-18, Kirtland Central High School), among the state’s list of former award winners.

Gatorade has a long-standing history of serving athlete communities and understands how sports instill valuable lifelong skills on and off the field. Through Gatorade’s “Play it Forward” platform, Kuykendall has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national organization of their choosing that helps young athletes realize the benefits of playing sports. Kuykendall is also eligible to submit a short video explaining why the organization they chose is deserving of one of twelve $10,000 spotlight grants, which will be announced throughout the year. To date, Gatorade Player of the Year winners’ grants have totaled more than $3.5 million across more than 1,300 organizations.

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