Irene Riggs named National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year

Riggs is the first winner of the National Player of the Year in West Virginia history regardless of sport
Updated: Jan. 25, 2023 at 1:01 PM EST
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - A Morgantown High athlete has been announced as the Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.

Irene Riggs of Morgantown High School won the prestigious award for her accomplishments on and off the field.

She joins an impressive group of award winners who have combined for more than eight National Championships and five bronze medals.

The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes athletes not just for their excellence on the playing surface, but for their commitment in the classroom and impact in their community.

“I’m honored to represent the state this way,” said Riggs. “If you look back, especially in distance running, we have grown as a state in athletics. I think sometimes we get a little bit shadowed, so it is important to do our best to represent the state.”

Riggs beat out nearly 300,000 other student-athletes who compete in girls cross country nationwide, topping the list of state winners in cross country who collectively boast an incredible list of accomplishments, including 23 with signed National Letters of Intent to run cross country at Division I colleges/universities and 40 with a GPA of 4.0 and above.

Irene Riggs reacts to being named the Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.
Irene Riggs reacts to being named the Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.(Gatorade Player of the Year)

“It was not what I was expecting,” said Riggs. “I thought something weird might be going on towards the end of it, but that was not what I had in mind. My immediate reaction was excitement, and I was just really honored to win the award.”

A three-time Gatorade Player of the Year in cross country for the state of West Virginia, Riggs won the Nike Cross Nationals title this past season with a time of 16:40.9, the second-fastest girls 5K performance in history at Oregon’s Glendoveer Golf Course. That followed Riggs’ Group 3A individual state championship, which sparked the Mohigans to a state title as a team. She also broke the tape at the Nike Southeast Regional in North Carolina with a time of 16:02.1, eclipsing the WakeMed course record by 20 seconds and producing the second-fastest 5K clocking by a prep girl in U.S. history. Unbeaten during the 2022 campaign, she’s picked up where she left off in the new year, breaking the tape this past weekend to win the U-20 title at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships, clocking a 19:45.0 over 6K to beat three other Gatorade Player of the Year winners who placed in the top five. She will advance to the U20 Cross Country World Championships in Australia this February.

The Vice President of the student body at Morgantown High School, Riggs has served as social media coordinator for Mohigan Idol, a Monongalia County talent competition that fundraises for WVU Children’s Hospital. Also a student council representative at Morgantown High School, she has donated her time as a youth coach for Club Mountaineer Aquatics and as part of the Strawberry 5K fundraiser supporting her high school.

Riggs maintains a 4.22 unweighted GPA in the classroom. She has signed a National Letter of Intent to run on scholarship at Stanford University this fall.

“I had so much fun, I think those experiences are something I really value,” said Riggs on her experiences at the high school level. “I meet people who have the same interests that I do and the same dedication to the sport that I put in.”

Irene Riggs following Morgantown's win in the XC state tournament.
Irene Riggs following Morgantown's win in the XC state tournament.(WDTV)

In addition to excellence on and off the field of play, Gatorade Players of the Year also pay it forward for the next generation.

As part of Gatorade’s Play it Forward initiative, Riggs will receive a grant to give to one of Gatorade’s social impact partners – Athlete Ally, Laureus USA, Move United, Women’s Sports Foundation and Up2Us Sports – supporting Gatorade’s ambition to fuel the future of sport.

“The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes those who are on their journey to greatness both on and off the field of play,” said Michael Del Pozzo, president and general manager of Gatorade. “Irene’s athleticism, paired with her outstanding contributions in the community and success in the classroom make her a natural choice for Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.”

To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, click here.