Chicago, Ill. [July 14, 2021] – In its 36th year of honoring the nation’s most elite high school athletes, Gatorade today announced Roisin Willis of Stevens Point Area Senior High School (Stevens Point, Wis.) and Hobbs Kessler of Skyline High School (Ann Arbor, Mich.) are the 2020-21 Gatorade National Track and Field Players of the Year. Willis and Kessler won the prestigious award for their accomplishments on and off the field, joining an impressive group of former winners. Past Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Players of the Year have combined for 69 gold medals and 34 National Championships, while past Gatorade National Boys Track and Field Players of the Year have combined for 21 gold medals and 14 National Championships.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Willis and Kessler as the nation’s best high school track and field players. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select our winners from nearly half a million other student-athletes who compete in track and field nationwide.
Competition for the national award was fierce. Willis topped the list of state winners in girls track and field who collectively boast an incredible list of accomplishments, including eight reigning state Cross Country Gatorade Players of the Year, 26 with signed Letters of Intent to compete on athletic scholarships at Division I universities and 25 with a GPA of 4.0 and above. Kessler surpassed the competition among state winners, which includes six reigning state Gatorade Cross Country Players of the Year, 20 with a GPA of 3.75 and above and 30 with signed Letters of Intent to compete on athletic scholarships at Division I universities.
“Roisin Willis was a marvel before the pandemic as a freshman and she showed that the lost season of 2020 didn’t throw her off stride,” said Doug Binder, editor-in-chief of DyeStat.com. “Willis was at the forefront of an elite high school movement in the 800-meter event this season and was one of three prep girls to qualify for the 2021 Olympic Trials. Her personal-best time this spring shows that she’s on her way to challenging the best 800-meter runners in the world.”
The state’s two-time returning Gatorade Girls Track & Field Player of the Year, the 5-foot-11 junior Willis reached the semifinal round of June’s U.S. Olympic Trials in the 800-meter run. At the time of her selection, Willis’s top 800 time of 2:00.78 at the Trials of Miles New York City Qualifier was an Under-18 world record and ranked No. 1 nationally among 2021 prep competitors in her event. Willis also set a state record in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:41.46, which ranked No. 6 nationally, and her best time of 53.62 in the 400-meter dash ranked No. 10 nationally. Only three prep girls in history have clocked an 800 faster than the Stevens Point teen.
An accomplished violin player, Willis performed holiday music via Zoom for area assisted living centers during the pandemic. This spring, she participated in a practice-a-thon fundraiser to raise scholarship dollars for fellow music students. As a member of National Honor Society, Roisin has helped prepare goodie bags and thank you cards for hospital workers during the height of COVID-19. She also participated in an NHS pen-pal program with fourth-graders. In addition, she has volunteered on behalf of the North Central Conservancy Trust, helping to clear a new multi-use trail at Bukolt Park in Stevens Point.
Willis has maintained a weighted 4.0 GPA in the classroom. She will begin her senior year of high school this fall.