Camas High School junior Alexa Efraimson has been named the Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
She received the news Thursday morning when Olympian Molly Huddle stopped by her advanced marketing class.
Huddle, a nine time All-American, is the American record holder in the 5,000 meters. She placed 11th in the 5,000 final, at the 2012 Olympic Games, in London.
“I was so excited,” Efraimson said later about the surprise. “I started to tear up. It was awesome.”
The award recognizes athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character.
Efraimson, 17, is a two-time cross country and a two-event track state champion.
During a press conference that followed the surprise presentation, she said she was honored and humbled to receive the Gatorade award.
Efraimson’s parents, Dan and Chantel, and sister Jenna, were there, along with friends, additional family members, teammates, coaches, school superintendant Mike Nerland, school board members, faculty and cheerleaders.
A national advisory panel, comprised of sport-specific experts and journalists, helped select Efraimson from nearly 215,000 high school girls cross country runners nationwide. She is now a finalist for the Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a ceremony prior to the ESPY Awards in July, in Los Angeles.
Efraimson and the other national high school honorees will walk the red carpet at the ESPYs.
In December 2013, she won the Nike Cross Nationals 5,000 meters final, with a course-record time of 16:50.1. Efraimson, the 2012-13 Gatorade Washington Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year, captured the Class 4A individual state cross country championship with a course-record time of 17:01.1, leading the Papermakers to second place as a team.
She has also won the Nike Pre-Nationals, the Nike BorderClash and the Bill Dellinger Invitational, and she finished first at the NXN Northwest Regional championships in 17:27.1.
Last month, Efraimson ran the second-fastest time by a high school female, while competing in the Wannamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in New York. Running against collegiate and professional athletes, she earned sixth place in the indoor mile with a time of 4 minutes, 32.15 seconds.
In July 2013, Efraimson earned a bronze medal for Team USA in the 1,500-meter race, at the World Youth Track and Field Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine.
“Alexa is incredibly blessed with talent, drive and ambition,” said CHS cross country coach Laurie Porter.
Alisa Wise, the head girls track and field coach at CHS, remembered Efraimson as a freshman placing second in the state 800 meter run.
She chased Amy Eloise-Neale, of Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish, to the finish line, but just ran out of track.
Efraimson got hit and bumped, and a runner stepped on her shoe causing it to come half off [known as a “flat tire”] at the start of the second lap.
“She ran most of the second lap with the back half of her shoe off,” Wise said. “It was tucked under her heel.”
After the race, Efraimson told her parents she had really wanted to win.
“When other teammates talked to her about the flat tire, she said ‘that really didn’t affect my race at all,’” Wise recalled. “She had no excuses with disappointment or defeat.
“She is a champion,” she added. “It is a privilege to know her.”
Huddle said any breakthrough season or performance is never as magical or instantaneous as it seems to the observer.
“It’s usually made of hundreds of smaller moments of unseen dedication that can, at times, be unglamorous,” she said.
Huddle, a resident of Rhode Island, was in Arizona doing elevation training, before traveling to Camas.
She has watched some of Efraimson’s races online.
“You are looking at one of the future stars of track and field and distance running,” Huddle said, after the press conference.
Later that morning, Huddle and Efraimson went for a run around the track at CHS for a Gatorade photo shoot. That was followed by a six-mile run along Lacamas Lake.
Efraimson has a 3.88 grade point average. She is a youth soccer referee and a volunteer with the Inter-Faith Treasure House Lost and Found Cafe, at Zion Lutheran Church, in Camas.
Efraimson is a member of the National Honor Society and DECA.
“She has had a positive impact on the community,” Huddle said.After Efraimson graduates from CHS, she hopes to attend the University of Washington, the University of Oregon or Stanford.