Cherry Creek’s Parker Wolfe named Gatorade national boys cross country runner of the year after overcoming lingering effects of COVID-19 – The Denver Post

Cherry Creek senior Parker Wolfe takes a deep breath from an inhaler before each big race.

It’s a new step in his cross country preparation resulting from a summer COVID-19 diagnosis. In November, prior to the RunningLane XC national championships in Alabama, doctors discovered another coronavirus-related health concern.

“I had enlarged arteries from COVID,” Wolfe said. “I had to go in and get an IV to help reduce the inflammation and the dilatation of those arteries.”

Lingering symptoms, while frightening, were still no match for his drive to become one of the most decorated prep athletes in state history. On Thursday, Gatorade named Wolfe as its national boys cross country runner of the year — the first winner from Colorado since the award’s inception (2007-08).

Wolfe described his reaction as “shocked” when talking to reporters during a virtual news conference.

“It definitely was my best season ever,” Wolfe said. “Even COVID didn’t really stop it as much as I thought it would. … It definitely was on my mind, and still a worry, but I was able to kind of push through that part and get to the races. And race well.”

Wolfe rose to prominence at Cherry Creek with two 5K course records this season: 14 minutes, 30.1 seconds at the Heritage Classic and 15:10.4 at the Class 5A state meet. His sights kept getting bigger.

At the RunningLane XC national championships, after IV treatment for enlarged arteries, Wolfe turned in a blazing 14:26.9 finish to claim yet another course record. Wolfe took none of the success for granted.

He said that lung issues stemming from COVID-19 held him out for “a good month” back in the summer. A growing number of medical studies also suggest Wolfe is not alone in experiencing some type of heart issue after getting the virus, according to research compiled by heart.org.

“It affected how I trained a lot,” Wolfe said. “I had to take things super easy trying to get back into it. Just get my lungs back in shape from the toll they took from COVID. I would have workouts where my lungs weren’t feeling so good and my coaches would have to pull me out.

“I just let them know that everything was fine. It’s just a bad day.”

Wolfe saved his best performances for race days. Wolfe doesn’t overpower opponents with strength on a final kick toward the finish. He prefers a more sustainable approach.

“I like to run from the front,” Wolfe said. “Especially this year, I’ve gotten more used to it.”

That mentality helped place Wolfe in the national spotlight.

“Parker Wolfe’s season was about quality over quantity,” said Erik Boal, an editor of the running website Dyestat.com. “When he was at his best, there was no one better. … Wolfe went from being the final guy to earn All-American status at Foot Locker nationals in 2019 to one of the country’s most dominant competitors a year later, joining an impressive legacy of outstanding Colorado distance runners.”

Wolfe is signed to run at the University of North Carolina starting next fall as one of the most sought-after cross country recruits in the nation. He will closely monitor his health moving forward while leaving behind an incredible Colorado prep legacy.

“There are definitely a lot of unknowns,” Wolfe said. “I think we’ve gotten through many of the long-lasting effects that could have happened. We caught them pretty early. All of the heart stuff, we kind of got a hold on. I think it’s going away now and starting to get better.

“Overall, I’m not too worried. I feel I’m getting better every day. I noticed from last fall to now, I feel much better, even since my national race. … I’m not too worried about the lasting side effects. I know there will be some. But hopefully, they’ll diminish over time.”

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