University of Kentucky track and field newcomer Sydney McLaughlin added another honor to her growing résumé Tuesday night in Los Angeles, as the high school Olympian was named the Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive time.
McLaughlin became the first athlete in the award’s history to win the honor in back-to-back years.
“Coming back again, I wasn’t even thinking about winning the overall (award), I was excited to be here (as the winner of the national track and field award),” McLaughlin said. “It’s great to make history, and hopefully that kind of paves the way for other athletes to be able to do the same thing.”
The talented hurdler will join UK’s track team next season with plenty of hype surrounding her, as McLaughlin is one of the top high school track athletes in history.
This past season, McLaughlin set three national records and bettered her own 400-meter hurdles world junior record at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships.
:53.82The world junior 400-meter hurdle record McLaughlin set at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
McLaughlin also recorded the fastest 400-meter relay split in high school history at the New Balance Outdoor National Meet, running the lap in :49.85.
The Female Athlete of the Year award also recognizes off-the-field excellence. On top of running record-setting times, McLaughlin maintained a 3.46 grade-point average, and participated in many community service projects, including involvement with the Red Cross.
“My parents made sure they stayed on top of me and making me focus on, ‘school is always going to come first and track will always be there second,’” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin joins a list of notable athletes who have won the award in the past, including Karl-Anthony Towns, Maya Moore, Allyson Felix and LeBron James.
By winning the award, McLaughlin and Male Athlete of the Year Award winner, MacKenzie Gore, will be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated this month.
Another bonus of being named Female Athlete of the Year is getting to walk down the red carpet at the ESPYs and being featured as a special guest during the awards show.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to meet some celebrities, take some pictures, but I’m most excited about tonight’s dress,” McLaughlin said.
Gore, a talented prep baseball player from Whiteville, N.C., was drafted third overall in the 2017 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres.
McLaughlin is currently resting from her long senior season of competition before she starts getting ready for her first college track season at Kentucky. After the hectic summer of award receptions and high-profile races, McLaughlin is ready to get started at UK.
“I think I’m most excited about being able to train with other Olympians and world champions,” McLaughlin said. “Coach Flo (Edrick Floreal) is definitely going to help me make that transition smoothly and hopefully my freshman season is a good one.”
Chris Leach: 859-231-1326, @chrisleach250