A few short years ago, no one in the world of track and field would have recognized the name Hobbs Kessler, but throughout his incredible 2021 season, he has catapulted himself into the ranks of the best runners in the United States, high school or otherwise. On Wednesday he was named the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year in recognition of his achievements both on and off the track.
A phenomenal year
Kessler first made waves in the track world earlier this year when he broke the national high school indoor mile record, running to a third-place finish in 3:57.66. In March, the high school senior smashed the Michigan State two-mile record in 8:39.04, the fourth-fastest time in U.S. history, and later in May he competed at the Portland Track Festival, where he set the American U20 record in the 1,500m in 3:34.60, the fourth-fastest time run by an American of any age so far this year. His season culminated at the U.S. Olympic trials, where he made it to the semi-final round in the 1,500m, where he ran an impressive 3:45.63.
In June, Kessler announced that while he still plans on attending Northern Arizona University in the Fall, he will not be competing in the NCAA, and instead has signed a professional contract with Adidas.
Gatorade Athletes of the Year are not chosen solely based on their athletic achievements, but on their performance in school and their involvement in their local communities. Kessler graduated with a 3.48 GPA, and is a leader and volunteer in his local climbing community.
“[He works] with young athletes at Planet Rock as a volunteer assistant coach, teaching climbing techniques, setting routes, and organizing games and activities for the youth teams,” the company said in a statement. “In his neighborhood, Kessler serves as a de facto big brother to kids on the block and helper to their parents. In addition to his official babysitting duties, Hobbs often gives parents breaks by playing with the neighborhood kids and organizing races, games and activities to keep them occupied.”
In an interview with Milesplit, the young runner spoke humbly about the award, noting that there are a lot of really good high school runners out there.
“It’s pretty cool,” Kessler said. “There are a lot of really good runners. A lot of people I think are better deserving of it. So it feels pretty cool to be selected and it feels great to be recognized and see my name next to my fellow Lumberjack Nico. It’s cool to be up there.”
Selected alongside him on the girls’ side is Roisin Willis, who was one of three high school girls to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials in the 800m. The high school junior from Wisconsin ran a U18 world record in the 800m in 2:00.78 at the Trials of Miles New York City Qualifier and set a state record in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:41.46.