Gatorade held the annual high school Athlete of the Year awards dinner in Downtown LA during ESPY week (Tuesday, July 14, 2015) . In addition to the current Athletes of the Year award winners present for the announcement, also in attendance were such superstars as Abby Wambach, fresh of her World Cup championship with the USA, Julie Foudy, as well as JJ Watt, Candace Parker, Landon Donovan, and recent NBA champion Draymond Green.
With the Athlete of the Year award, Gatorade rewards male and female athletes in 51 states for their athletic excellence, academic achievement, and exemplary character. Of those 606 winners, 12 are chosen and then two are elected as national Athletes of the Year- one girl and one boy.
For the girls, Mikaela Foecke (volleyball), Anna Rohrer (cross country), Mallory Pugh (soccer), Katie Lou Samuelson (basketball), Rachel Garcia (softball), and Candace Hill (track & field) were state winners and up for the Girl Athlete of the Year Award. Pugh, Samuelson, and Hill were not in attendance due to competitive commitments.
It was sprinter Candace Hill at Rockdale County High School in Conyers, GA, who took the award for Athlete of the Year. She runs a 100-yard sprint in 11.34 seconds, and 200 yards in 22.05 seconds. In a previously recorded acceptance speech that was played for those at the event, she thanked God, her family, friends, coaches, and community for the support that has allowed her to excel on and off the track.
Hill is the first non-senior to win as Athlete of the Year in the 13-year history of the girls’ national award. She became the first high school girl in history to break the 11-second barrier in the 100-meter by going 10.98 seconds at the Brooks PR meet in Seattle.
PrettyTough caught up with various athletes following the awards presentation to talk about the event.
Julie Foudy, ESPN broadcaster and former captain of the USA women’s national soccer team, who presented the Capital One award at ESPYs on Wednesday night talked about what she loves about this Gatorade awards.
“the cool thing about it is that it’s not just ‘hey, here’s a great athlete.’ It’s ‘here’s a good athlete who’s also great in the classroom, who’s also great in his or her community.’ And then the fact that they linked it yesterday with community service- I love that. And that’s what you want the young kids to be seeing. We don’t love (the athletes) just because they can dunk the ball or he’s the best quarterback, it’s because they’re a great human being all around.” ~Julie Foudy
Mikaela Foecke, a volleyball player at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, in Fort Madison, Iowa expressed how she felt being at the awards. “It’s an amazing feeling sitting up there with all the other athletes. I’m so honored and blessed to be chosen (as the Iowa Athlete of the Year for volleyball). Gatorade does such a great job putting on this event, and wouldn’t be possible without them.”
Foecke, a middle hitter who amassed 812 kills, 270 digs, 170 service aces, and 95 blocks leading the Crusaders to a 48-4 record and her school’s first state title in any sport during her senior year will be attending and playing volleyball at Nebraska. Foecke has also played for the USA at the youth level and won the gold medal at the NORCECA U-20 Continental Championship.
Anna Rohrer, a cross country runner at Mishawaka High School, in Mishawaka, Ind. shared her thoughts on attending the Gatorade awards. “It’s hard to wrap my mind around being surrounded by all of these fantastic athletes who are the best in the sport, and just to know that hopefully I can be up there, come back here someday and be on the other side of this presenting someone with an award.”
Abby Wambach spoke to us about what it meant to her to be at the event.
“It’s always an honor to be a part of the Gatorade family and to be a part of the Player of the Year ceremony, to watch and see the other athletes that Gatorade endorses and brings to represent their respective sport. It’s a wonderful night, and a tribute, and of course for us (her and the USWNT) kind of highlighted even more post-World Cup because we just won this big tournament, all these young athletes know who I am, which is not always the everyday thing.” ~Abby Wambach
And that was the case with Rohrer, and other of the high school athletes who met and asked her to get their picture taken with her.
“It was fun meeting Abby just after wining the World Cup a week ago. It’s really cool to see how she’s progressed throughout the years because she also won this award, so it was really neat,” said Rohrer.
Wambach, the 1998 New York Athlete of the Year for soccer, spoke about how far the awards ceremony and overall recognition from Gatorade has come. “They didn’t even throw a thing like this back then,” she said. She was asked if they just shipped her an award back then: “You know what, I think they did. Literally, just mailed me one,” she said laughing.
“When I won Gatorade Athlete of the Year, that lifted my confidence. And now I see some of these young high school players, and they’ve got ten times as much confidence as I had in 1997. So I can only imagine what it’s going to be like in ten years time, and the gifts that Gatorade gives to these kids, the confidence that they instill, because it is a badge of honor.” ~Abby Wambach
“If you look at the list of past winners, and directly correlate them to the success of their respective sport, there’s no rhyme or reason, but Gatorade is pretty good at picking the winners,” she added.
See below as we asked three of the high school athletes what the phrase “pretty tough” means to them.
Fighting through anything. When I think of “pretty tough” I think of fighting through breast cancer, what women go through, and I think that “pretty tough” means having a lot of grit no matter what life throws at you, and fighting back.
Putting in that extra percent, like after practice and going and doing that extra cardio, something to get better each day even when your body is telling you to stop, you keep pushing.”
Wow, I haven’t really come across that phrase. But I think it can mean a couple things: the fact that a girl can be pretty and also tough. I have two older brothers, so growing up with that, there’s not really a choice not to be tough. They’ve taught me how to do all sorts of things, and I can throw a pretty good spiral. But at the same time, I can also look really feminine and put on a dress for an event like this.”
Congrats to all the winners and nominees!!