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Parker English heard a lot of stories about Hall of Fame runner Janis Foster during English’s four years competing for the Evanston girls track team.
Now English has something more in common with Foster.
After winning Class 3A Illinois High School Association state championships in the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes last month, English was selected as the Gatorade Illinois Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
The speedy ETHS product joined Foster (1989) and Shalina Clarke (2006) as past winners of the honor.
Gatorade, in collaboration with USA Today High School Sports, is in its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes. 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, distinguishes English as Illinois’ best high school girls track and field athlete.
Past winners of the Illinois award include Emmonnie Henderson of Edwardsville (2013), Aaliyah Brown of Lincoln-Way East (2012), Jena Hemann of Central Community (2011), Kelsey Card of Carlinville (2010), Daniella Bunch of Mahomet-Seymour (2008 and 2009), and Egle Staisiumaite of Downers Grove South (2007), along with Clarke and Foster.
The 5-foot-7 senior won the 200 with a time of 24.33 seconds and ruled the 400 in 53.88, leading the Wildkits to a fourth place finish as a team. She also finished third in the 100-meter dash, and her season best time of 53.80 in the 400 ranked as the 10th fastest time in the nation among prep competitors in 2014.
In all, English totaled 13 state medals during her career, including a pair of first place relay finishes as a freshman.
“I had my fingers crossed because I knew I’d be up against a lot of big runners in our state,” said English, who earned a scholarship to compete for the University of Notre Dame next year. “At the state meet you have the best of the best gathered together, and I just tried to do my best.
“I’m very happy to win this award. And it’s very cool to be included with two other girls from ETHS who have won the award. I’ve heard many stories about Foster, who won the 400 like I did and didn’t use blocks like me, either.”
English has maintained a 3.42 grade point average in the classroom. A devoted member of her church community, she has volunteered as a tutor and vacation Bible school counselor in Evanston. She owns school outdoor records in the 400 meters and long jump, and established indoor marks in the 300, 400, and long jump before graduating in May.
At the Central Suburban League South division championship meet, English became the first competitor since Clarke in 2004 to win four events (100, 200, 400 and long jump). She is the fourth girl in league history to win gold medals in those three races on the same day.
“Parker is right up there with the best we’ve ever had,” said Evanston Township head coach Fenton Gunter. “The talent was always there for her, and she came in this year and did her job.”
English is now a finalist for the national Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year award. The Gatorade Player of the Year program annual 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 and field, and awards one National Player of the Year award in each sport.
The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team, in partnership with USA Today High School Sports, which works with the top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
English joins an elite alumni association of honorees in various sports, including Allyson Felix (2001-2002) of Los Angeles Baptist in California; Derek Jeter (1991-92) of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Candace Parker (2001-02) of Naperville Central in Illinois; Abby Wambach (1997-98) of Our Lady of Mercy in New York; Mark Sanchez (2004-05) of Mission Viejo in California; Lolo Jones (1997-98) of Roosevelt in Iowa; and Bianca Knight (2006-07) of Ridgeland in Mississippi.