Photo: Hernando runner Kaitlyn Burge running early of her senior season last August. (Credit Keith Fulcher)
A Hernando High School runner has become the latest DeSoto County athlete to be given a statewide honor from Gatorade.
Kaitlyn Burge on Monday, Jan. 22 was announced as the 2023-24 Gatorade Mississippi Girls Cross Country Player of the Year. Burge is the second Gatorade Mississippi Girls Cross Country Player of the Year to be chosen from Hernando, following Katelyn Cartwright in 2017-18.
The award, which celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community, distinguishes Burge as Mississippi’s best high school girls cross country runner.
The 5-foot-5 senior set six course records this past season and capped her prep career by breaking the tape at the MHSAA Class 7A state meet, clocking a time of 18:13.41 and leading the Tigers to second place as a team.
Burge just over a week later committed to run cross country and track next season at Mississippi State.
Burge was the state’s top finisher at the Jesse Owens Classic Gold Race—10th overall—and crossed the line in a 5K personal-best 17:58.54. She posted an 8-2 meet record in 2023.
Burge has volunteered locally on behalf of multiple community service initiatives through her church, the National Honor Society and Hernando High’s Rotary International Interact Club. “Kaitlyn Burge won the state’s highest classification by almost 25 seconds and seemed to rewrite course records everywhere she ran in 2023,” said Rich Gonzalez of PrepCalTrack. “She also ran the state’s fastest 5K among prep girls last fall.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually 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 & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.
Every Player of the Year also receives a grant to donate to a social impact partner. To date, Gatorade Player of the Year winners’ grants have totaled more than $4.9 million across more than 1,600 organizations.