The recent West Carteret grad woke up Thursday to learn he had been awarded the Gatorade N.C. Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year award.

Crossley, who has signed a scholarship to run at East Carolina, becomes just the second Carteret County athlete to win a Gatorade state award, joining Lonnie Chisenhall, who won for baseball in 2006.

“It’s definitely an awesome award,” Crossley said. “They give it to one boy and one girl in the state for track and field. It’s pretty cool to be honored by them.”

Crossley is also one of the few from Eastern North Carolina to win the prestigious award. Of the 230 athletes who have garnered a Gatorade title since 1986, nearly 150 have come from areas surrounding Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

In its 28th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, the Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, gives the award that recognizes, not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the track.

Crossley maintained a 3.92 GPA in the classroom and volunteered on behalf of the Special Olympics, Hope Mission, a community kitchen, men’s homeless shelter and recovery program, and PAWS, the Pet Adoption & Welfare Society of Carteret County.

“I like that it’s an award that speaks volumes about your character,” Crossley said. “I don’t want to win awards for just being fast.”

West Carteret cross country coach Shelton Mayo nominated Crossley for the award, figuring no one in the state was more deserving.

“John has matured into the most well-rounded, elite distance runner I’ve ever coached,” Mayo said. “He’s showed dedication, leadership and character.”

Crossley has had a whirlwind few weeks that included two state championships – he won the 800 meters with a time of 1:54.14 and the 1600 meters in 4:21.25 at the 3A state finals – and a big day at the Champions Tune-Up where he broke a magical barrier in the 800 meters to reach lofty standards in state and national rankings.

He ran the second-fastest 800 meters by a high school boy in the United States this year and the fourth-fastest time in North Carolina history with a 1:49.99 clocking.

He topped all that last weekend when he captured a national title at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals with a time of 1:48.01, making him the fastest high school boys 800-meter runner in state history. He also set a meet record with the time and is now eighth all-time nationally.

Crossley’s time placed him atop the N.C. high school all-time standings, beating out East Forsyth’s Dylan Ferris, who held the record for the past six years with a 1:49.27 clocking in 2007.

With Crossley standing eighth all-time in the U.S. high school standings, only those running sub-1:48 times rank ahead of him.

“All this still hasn’t caught up with me yet,” Crossley said. “I need some time to sit down and think about what I’ve done.”

Crossley tallied four state titles in his time at West and holds numerous school and county records, including the county middle school 1-mile record (5:02). He recently broke Sonny Hyman’s 46-year county high school 1-mile record with a 4:14 time.