HARTLAND, Wis. -- A champion alpine ski racer, a gifted ukulele player, a sailing instructor, an undefeated national cross country champion: Molly Seidel’s resume reads more like Wonder Woman’s than a high school senior.
Tuesday morning, the University Lake School (Hartland, Wis.) teen added another line-item to her bio when 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials winner Shalane Flanagan handed her the 2011-12 Gatorade National Cross Country Runner of the Year trophy.
"This award is so cool," said Flanagan, who earned Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors in 1999-2000. "Look at the names on this trophy. So many amazing athletes. Legends. Congratulations to Molly."
The 5-foot-4 Seidel won the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships this past season, breaking the tape in 17:22. She also won the Foot Locker Midwest Regional championships with a time of 17:08.
A four-time Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association First Team All-State selection, Seidel completed an undefeated season this past fall and earned her fourth consecutive Division 3 individual state title, joining three-time Olympian Suzy Favor-Hamilton as the only Wisconsin runners to ever win state cross country titles all four prep seasons. Seidel covered the 4K state championship course in 13:39.59, more than 40 seconds ahead of her next-closest competitor.
"Oh my God, oh my God, um, congratulations on winning the marathon trials Shalane," said a breathless Seidel as she accepted the trophy. "I'm so confused. This award is for me? I can't believe it."
Flanagan won this month’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, qualifying for the 2012 Summer Games along with 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up Desiree Davila and 2007 world 5,000-meter bronze medalist Kara Goucher. The 30-year-old Flanagaan took bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games in the 10,000-meter run and currently holds the American women’s record in the event.
“After finishing a heartbreaking 11th at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional championships in fall of 2010, Molly Seidel was highly motivated to get to San Diego this past December,” said ESPNHS/Dyestat Senior Editor Steve Underwood. “She got a good taste of national track competition last spring, then dominated Wisconsin this past fall even more thoroughly than she did the year before.
"When it again came time to face the stiff competition at Foot Locker Midwest, she not only qualified but won with room to spare. In San Diego, she refused to get rattled by runner-up Erin Finn's flying start and produced a great come-from-behind victory. She’s an amazing all-around student-athlete.”
Seidel has maintained a 4.0 GPA in the classroom and is a National Merit Scholarship Program Semifinalist. An active parishioner in her St. Joan of Arc church community, she serves as vice president of her school’s student government. Also an accomplished pianist and ukulele player, Seidel has further donated her time on behalf of The Gathering interfaith meal ministry, the Lifestriders Equine Physical Therapy Center and as a sailing instructor in association with the Pine Lake Yacht Club.
Earlier this month, Seidel tore up the muddy, steep, quasi-steeplechase 4K course at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country-International Challenge to finish third overall (in 15:16). As the second American to cross the line for Team USA -- behind 2010-11 Gatorade National Runner of the Year and Stanford freshman Aisling Cuffe -- Seidel outraced Arkansas freshman and 2010-11 Louisiana Runner of the Year Kaitlin Flattmann (14th) as well as her Razorbacks’ teammate, freshman Jessica Jackson (6th).
Seidel, who turns 18 in July, is the first Wisconsin female to earn Gatorade National Player of the Year recognition in the award’s 27-year history and joins former Major League Soccer goal keeper and Marquette University High (Milwaukee, Wis.) graduate Andrew Kirk, who won the award in 1995-96, as the only prep athletes from the state to capture national Gatorade honors in any sport. Wisconsin native Favor-Hamilton won Gatorade State Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors in 1985-86. ESPNHS manages the award’s selection process.
Gatorade State and National Player of the Year alumni from the realm of professional running include 60-meter hurdles American record-holder Lolo Jones (Iowa, 1997-98), three-time 200-meter World Champion Allyson Felix (California and National, 2002-03), 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials winner Meb Keflezighi (California, 1993-94), three-time USA 12K Cross Country champion Dathan Ritzenhein (Michigan, 1999-01) and Ryan Hall (California, 2000-01), also an Olympic Marathon qualifier for the U.S. in the upcoming London Games.
Seidel has verbally committed to an athletic scholarship at the University of Notre Dame beginning this fall.
Want to know who won Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year in your state? Click here. Visit the ESPNHS Player of the Year blog and be the first to know who wins 2011-12 Gatorade Player of the Year hardware in eight other sports by following the ESPNHS team that manages the award program’s selection process .