In its 32nd year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, today announced Zakeer Ahmad of Staples High School as its 2016-17 Gatorade Connecticut Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Ahmad is the second Gatorade Connecticut Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year to be chosen from Staples High School, joining Henry Wynne.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguishes Ahmad as Connecticut’s best high school boys cross country runner, according to a press release.

The 6-foot, 150-pound senior raced to the State Open championship this past season with a time of 15:46. Ahmad also won the Class LL state championship in 15:49, leading the Wreckers to the state title as a team. He broke the tape at the Stratton Brook Invitational and the FCIAC championships, while placing third at the New England Cross Country Championships and sixth at the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional championships.

Ahmad has volunteered locally on behalf of youth track programs and charity road races. “Zakeer is one of the best who has ever run for Staples High,” said Staples coach Laddie Lawrence. “He’s a knowledgeable, dedicated and determined competitor who has a true love for the sport.”

Ahmad has maintained a 3.66 GPA in the classroom. He will attend the University of Pennsylvania this fall, where he will compete in cross country and track and field.

Ahmad joins Gatorade Connecticut Boys Cross Country Runners of the Year Eric van der Els (2015-16, Brien McMahon), Alex Ostberg (2014-15 & 2013-14, Darien), Henry Wynne (2012-13, Staples), Connor Rog (2011-12 & 2010-11, Fairfield Prep), John Raneri (2009-10 & 2008-09, New Fairfield), and Donn Cabral (2007-08,Glastonbury) as athletes who have won the cross country award since its inception in 2007.

As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Ahmad 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.