High-SchoolPlayer-of-the-Year: POY Alumni

Tragedy strikes North Dakota XC community

March, 26, 2012
The ESPNHS team that administers the Gatorade Player of the Year Program would like to extend our condolences to the family of Robyn Essler, a Gatorade North Dakota Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year finalist this past fall.

The 15-year-old Garrison (N.D.) freshman was reportedly killed in a car crash Thursday afternoon near her hometown, according to local NBC affiliate KFYR-TV.

Essler captured the Class B individual state championship this past season, covering the 4K course with a time of 14:52.60. She also won the Class B West Regional meet, establishing herself as one of the state's premier running talents along with two-time reigning Gatorade North Dakota Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year Tarin Lachowitzer.

Essler maintained an A average in the classroom and participated in both her school's band and choir. In addition to donating her time as a youth basketball instructor, she also volunteered extensively on behalf of her church, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Future Farmers of America and several local festivals.

She lived the Gatorade program's three pillars of athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character.

POY Alumni: Populating Wooden nominees

March, 8, 2012
Skylar Diggins, Indiana, POY Alumni, Washington, girlsAssociated PressNotre Dame junior guard and John R. Wooden Award finalist Skylar Diggins captured 2008-09 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year honors and two Gatorade Indiana Girls Basketball Player of the Year awards.
Of the 15 women finalists for this year’s John R. Wooden Award, a majority are former Gatorade Player of the Year honorees --nine in all.

Nominees include three former Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year winners in Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins of Washington (South Bend, Ind.), Stanford senior forward Nneka Ogwumike of Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas) and Stanford sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike of Cy-Fair.

Five 2012 Wooden finalists were twice recognized as State Player of the Year during their high school career: Delaware junior wing Elena Delle Donne of Ursuline Academy (Wilmington, Del./2005-06, 2007-08) and Tennessee senior wing Shekinna Stricklen of Morrilton (Morrilton, Ark./2005-06, 2007-08) along with Diggins (2007-09), the elder Ogwumike sister (2006-08) and the only freshman among this year’s finalists, Duke center Elizabeth Williams of Princess Anne (Virginia Beach, Va./2009-11).

Other POY alumni contending for college basketball’s ultimate honor this year include Baylor junior center Brittney Griner of Nimitz (Texas/2008-09), Ohio State senior guard Samantha Prahalis of Commack (Commack, N.Y./2007-08) and Kentucky junior guard A’dia Mathies of Iroquois (Louisville, Ky.).

Last month, Delle Donne, who owns a 3.6 GPA, was named the NCAA Academic All-America of the Year.

POY Alumni: Connaughton's homecoming

February, 2, 2012
Pat Connaughton, MassachusettsAssociated PressNotre Dame forward Pat Connaughton is earning valuable minutes for the Irish just a year after capturing Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors.
Notre Dame’s enigmatic men’s basketball team brings an 11-1 home record into Saturday’s South Bend showdown with No. 15 Marquette, but clutch play in a New England homecoming for freshman Pat Connaughton helped the Irish (14-8) open the week with a huge road win at UConn.

Connaughton, the 2010-11 Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Basketball Player of the Year, earned loud cheers this past weekend at Hartford’s packed XL Center, situated just 105 miles from where he spent his high school career at St. John’s Prep (Danvers, Mass.).

“It was so sweet to have such support in the stands,” said the 6-foot-5 forward, who turned 19 last month. "My dad said there were almost 300 people here who came out to see me. It was a great feeling, especially since we came away with a win.”

Sunday’s 50-48 victory was the third straight for the Irish (6-3 Big East), a stretch that included knocking former No. 1 Syracuse (22-1; 9-1) from their perch. Despite a 3-7 record away from Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame is already receiving votes on ballots in the AP Top 25 poll. Connaughton is averaging 6.1 points and four rebounds in just under 22 minutes per game.

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POY Alumni: Super Bowl features 7 winners

February, 2, 2012
Wes Welker, New England Patriots, OklahomaAssociated PressWes Welker is one of seven former Gatorade State Football Players of the Year on the rosters of the New England Patriots and New York Giants.
Neither starting quarterback earned the honor, but there are seven former Gatorade State Football Players of the Year on the rosters of the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. Not all of them will play in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday in Indianapolis, but two play vital roles in the Patriots’ passing offense.

The NFL's leading receiver this season, Wes Welker was the 1999-2000 Oklahoma winner playing for Heritage Hall (Oklahoma City, Okla.). Also lining up as an option for Tom Brady will be 2006-07 Connecticut winner Aaron Hernandez from Bristol Central (Bristol, Conn.), part of the Patriots’ one-two tight end combination.

If Brady wants to change things up, he could hand the ball to Danny Woodhead, the 2003-04 Nebraska winner from North Platte (Neb.), or 1994-95 Louisiana winner Kevin Faulk from Carencro (Lafayette, La.).

Ryan Mallett, the 2006-07 Texas winner from Texas High (Texarkana, Texas), will likely spend most of his Super Bowl Sunday holding a clipboard on the sidelines as the Patriots’ No. 3 quarterback. And Andre Carter, the 1996-97 California winner from Oak Grove (San Jose, Calif.), can only watch his teammates as the defensive end was placed on the injured reserve list after hurting his leg against the Denver Broncos on Dec. 18.

The lone Giant to win Gatorade POY honors is punt returner/special teamer Will Blackmon, the 2001-02 Rhode Island winner from Bishop Hendricken (Warwick, R.I.).

POY Alumni: Wenger top pick in MLS draft

January, 13, 2012
POY Alumni, Andrew Wenger, PennsylvaniaGetty ImagesNo. 1 overall pick Andrew Wenger speaks to the media at the MLS SuperDraft, just three years after capturing 2008-09 Gatorade Pennsylvania Boys Soccer Player of the Year honors.
Major League Soccer and the Women’s Professional Soccer league held their annual drafts this week, and there were six former Gatorade Soccer Players of the Year selected in each draft.

Andrew Wenger, the 2008-09 Gatorade Pennsylvania Boys Soccer Player of the Year, was the first pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft by the expansion Montreal Impact. Wenger just completed his junior year at Duke University and was named the 2011 MAC Hermann Trophy winner after tallying 17 goals and eight assists.

Wenger was joined in the first round by four fellow former Gatorade winners.

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POY Alumni: From hurdler to Heisman

December, 12, 2011
POY Alumni: Robert Griffin IIIAssociated PressHeisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III earned 2006-07 Gatorade Texas Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors as a junior in high school.
While Heisman Trophy-winning Baylor University junior quarterback Robert Griffin III is a member of the Gatorade Player of the Year family, it's not for the sport you might assume. Griffin captured 2006-07 Gatarade Texas Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors.

As a high school junior, Griffin captured Class 4A individual state titles in the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles, setting a state record in the latter and leading Copperas Grove (Texas) to the team championship. His top 110-meter hurdles time (13.46) and best 300-meter hurdles performance (35.33) ranked No. 1 and 2 in the nation that season, respectively.

The following fall, as a high school senior, Griffin threw for 1,356 yards and 16 touchdowns in addition to rushing for 1,285 yards and another 24 scores, leading Copperas Cove (13–2) to the Class 4A Division I state championship game. He didn't take home Gatorade Texas Football Player of the Year honors that season, as that award went to Southlake Carroll (Southlake, Texas) senior quarterback Riley Dodge.

Griffin graduated high school a semester early and therefore didn't repeat as Gatorade Texas Boys Track & Field AOY. Now an NFL prospect, will he return to college for his senior season to defend yet another award?

For more on Griffin's Heisman Trophy-winning junior season at Baylor, click here.

POY Alumni: NSCAA All-Americans

December, 9, 2011
Teresa NoyolaRick Bale/Stanford AthleticsTeresa Noyola, left, was one of four former Gatorade Girls Soccer Players of the Year named an NSCAA First Team All-American.
The National Soccer Coaches Association of America announced the Division I All-American Teams today, and both the men's and women's teams are loaded with former Gatorade Players of the Year.

Stanford senior Teresa Noyola, the 2008 Gatorade National Player of the Year, earned her third NSCAA All-American honor. Noyola, who scored the winning goal last Sunday as the Cardinal beat Duke, 1-0, to win its first national championship, is also one of three finalists for the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top player in the country. Joining Noyola as a First Team All-American is Virginia freshman Morgan Brian, the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year. Brian is the only freshman named to the first team. Two other former Gatorade winners on the first team are Georgetown senior Ingrid Wells (2007, New Jersey) and Wake Forest sophomore Katie Stengel (2010, Florida). On the men's side, Andrew Wenger (2009, Pennsylvania), a junior forward for Duke, and North Carolina junior midfielder Enzo Martinez (2007-09, South Carolina) were named First Team All-Americans. Wenger is a finalist for the Hermann Trophy on the men's side.

Named to the second team on the women's side were: Illinois sophomore Vanessa DiBernardo (2010, Illinois), Penn State junior Christine Nairn (2007-08, Maryland) and Florida State junior Tiffany McCarty (2005-07, Washington D.C.). Casey Townsend (2007-08, Michigan), a senior forward for Maryland, made the second team on the men's side.

2007 National Player of the Year Melissa Henderson, a senior forward for Notre Dame, was a Third Team All-American. She was joined by UCLA freshman Abby Dahlkemper (2010, California), North Carolina sophomore Crystal Dunn (2010, New York), Duke sophomore Kaitlyn Kerr (2009-10, New Jersey) and Virginia junior Caroline Miller (2009, Maryland). For the men, UCLA junior Chandler Hoffman (2008-09, Alabama) and Memphis sophomore Mark Sherrod (2009, Tennesee) were named Third Team All-Americans.

POY Alumni: Women's College Cup

December, 3, 2011
Mollie PathmanDerick E. Hingle/US Presswire2010 Gatorade Girls Soccer National Player of the Year Mollie Pathman is one win away from a national title.
For the sixth straight year, a Gatorade Girls Soccer National Player of the Year will be a national champion. Mollie Pathman, the 2010 National Player of the Year, scored two goals for Duke on Saturday as the Blue Devils routed ACC rival Wake Forest, 4-1, to advance to the National Championship game against unbeaten Stanford, which boasts a pair of Gatorade National POYs in Teresa Noyola (2008) and Rachel Quon (2009).

Either Pathman or Noyola and Quon will follow in the footsteps of 2007 Gatorade winner Melissa Henderson, who won the national title with Notre Dame a year ago; 2004 winner Ashlyn Harris, who won in 2006, 2008 and 2009 with North Carolina; 2005 winner Amy Rodriguez who led USC to the 2007 title; and 2003 winner Heather O'Reilly, who teamed with Harris to win the 2006 title with UNC.

Noyola and Quon are two of seven Gatorade state winners on the Stanford roster, with Chioma Ubogagu (2010, Texas), Kristy Zurmuhlen (2008, New Hampshire) and Alina Garciamendez (2009, Texas) all scoring goals in the Cardinal's 3-0 national semifinal win over Florida State.

Pathman is one of six state winners for Duke, which also got goals from Kim DeCesare (2009, New York) and Kaitlyn Kerr (2009, 2010, New Jersey) in the 4-1 win over Wake Forest.

POY Alumni: Women's Soccer Final Four

December, 2, 2011
Teresa NoyolaGerry Broome/AP2008 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year Teresa Noyola leads Stanford into the College Cup.
When the Women's Soccer College Cup gets underway Friday in Kennesaw, Ga., it's going to be hard to watch one second of action without seeing a former Gatorade Player of the Year on the field. Stanford, Duke, Florida State and Wake Forest boast 17 Gatorade Player of the Year winners on their rosters, including three national winners.

Stanford, the No. 1 overall seed, has two of those national winners in senior midfielder Teresa Noyola (2008, Calif.) and junior defender Rachel Quon (2009, Ill.). Noyola, the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year, is a three-time First Team All-Pac-12 selection. The Cardinal, who have lost in the national title game each of the last two years, also feature starters Kristy Zurmuhlen (2008, N.H.), Alina Garciamendez (2008, Texas) and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Chioma Ubogagu (2010, Texas) as well as Alex Doll (2010, 2011, Md.) and the injured Courtney Verloo (2007, 2008, Ore.).

Stanford will face Florida State in the day's first semifinal. The Seminoles, the ACC Tournament champions, are led by three-time Gatorade winner Tiffany McCarty (2006, 2007, 2008, Washington D.C.), a First-Team All-ACC selection. Defender Kassey Kallman (2010, Minn.) led the Seminoles in minutes played, and Ella Stephan 2007, Fla.) started 15 games.

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POY Alumni: NCAA Division I XC national championships

November, 23, 2011
Eye on POY: Emily Jones and Annamarie MaagAssociated PressTwo-time Gatorade State Girls Cross Country Runners of the Year Emily Jones and Annamarie Maag (second and third from left, respectively) led Georgetown to the 2011 NCAA Division I national title.
A pair of Gatorade National Runners of the Year placed second at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships on Monday in Terre Haute, Ind.

Chris Derrick, a senior at Stanford and the 2007-08 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, covered the 10,000-meter LaVern Gibson Championship Course in 28:57.5, placing second to Arizona freshman Lawi Lalang, a native of Kenya, who won with a time of 28:44.1.

As a high school senior at Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Ill.), Derrick captured first place individually at the Nike Team Nationals with a time of 15:39.8, leading the Wildcats to the team title. He also placed second at the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in 14:57.

In the 6,000-meter women’s race, Oregon junior Jordan Hasay, the 2008-09 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, placed second in 19:41.8, just 0.6 seconds behind Villanova senior Sheila Reid.

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POY Alumni: Jay Heaps leading Revolution

November, 18, 2011
POY Alumni: Jay HeapsAssociated PressRecently named New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps captured 1994-95 Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Soccer Player of the Year honors.
Just two years after retiring from Major League Soccer's New England Revolution, 1994-95 Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Soccer Player of the Year Jay Heaps is taking over the reins as their head coach.

After 11 MLS seasons, including his final nine in New England, Heaps retired in 2009 as the Revolution's all-time leader in games played (243), starts (238) and minutes played (21,619) in addition to ranking fifth in career assists (26). He was named 1999 MLS Rookie of the Year as a member of the Miami Fusion.

On Wednesday, Heaps was announced as the replacement for recently departed head coach Steve Nicol, who led the Revs to four MLS Cup finals in four seasons from 2002-07.

"I am so excited for this opportunity," Heaps told reporters. "I want to thank the entire Kraft family for believing that I'll be the right leader for this position and to deliver a new culture and implement a new and exciting vision."

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POY Alumni: Flanders family gaining notoriety

November, 18, 2011
POY Alumni: Clayton Kershaw
Associated PressTimothy Flanders flips into the end zone in a Sam Houston State victory earlier this season.
The Midwest City (Okla.) Flanders football family is quickly becoming the most famous Flanders family since "The Simpsons" neighbors Ned, Maude, Rod and Todd.

Timothy Flanders, the 2008-09 Gatorade Oklahoma Football Player of the Year, is on the short list of 2011 Walter Payton Award finalists for most outstanding offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

Meanwhile, James Flanders, has been making a season-long statement as a finalist for 2011-12 Gatorade Oklahoma Football Player of the Year honors.

A third brother, John Flanders, totaled 45 tackles and two interceptions -- including a last-second one in the end zone to preserve a one-point victory against Notre Dame -- in his 2010 junior season at the University of Tulsa.

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POY Alumni: Clayton Kershaw wins Cy Young

November, 18, 2011
POY Alumni: Clayton KershawAssociated PressClayton Kershaw captured the National League Cy Young Award just five years after earning 2005-06 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year honors.
Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw overpowered his fellow contenders in the National League Cy Young Award race just as he did Major League Baseball batters this season, capturing 27 of a possible 32 first-place votes to become the second Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year in three years to win the honor.

The 23-year-old Kershaw captured the triple crown of pitching, leading the National League in wins (21-5), ERA (2.28) and strikeouts (248). His 27 first-place votes gave him a total of 207 points, 74 more than Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay, the 1994-95 Gatorade Colorado Baseball Player of the Year.

"You never think you'll get to do, or win something like that," Kershaw told ESPN. "It's just so special, and I'm not taking it for granted. I'm just soaking it all in right now."

The same could have been said in 2005-06, when Kershaw earned Gatorade National Baseball POY honors as a Highland Park (Texas) senior. That season, he finished 13-0 on the mound with a 0.77 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 64 innings, leading his team to the Class 4A regional finals.

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POY Alumni: Verzbicas chasing triathlon gold

November, 11, 2011
POY Alumni: Lukas VerzbicasAssociated PressTwo-time Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year Lukas Verzbicas is leaving the University of Oregon to pursue an Olympic triathlon gold.
Lukas Verzbicas, the two-time Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, will end his running career at the University of Oregon after just one semester to pursue an Olympic future in triathlons.

One of the most decorated high school distance runners in history, Verzbicas announced Thursday that he will relocate to Colorado Springs and join the recently-established Elite Triathlon Academy, giving him full access to the facilities at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

Verzbicas also plans to enroll at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs for the spring semester.

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POY Alumni: David Testo comes out

November, 10, 2011
POY Alumni: David TestoAssociated PressDavid Testo, the 1998-99 Gatorade North Carolina Boys Soccer Player of the Year, became the first former Major League Soccer player to announce he is gay.
David Testo, the 1998-99 Gatorade North Carolina Boys Soccer Player of the Year, revealed Thursday to CBC Radio-Canada that he is gay. He became the first former Major League Soccer player to come out of the closet.

"It's like carrying around a secret, you know, and carrying around luggage and just never being allowed to be yourself," Testo told the Canadian radio station.

Testo, who led the University of North Carolina to the 2001 NCAA Division I national championship, has played professionally for the Richmond Kickers, Columbus Crew, Vancouver Whitecaps and, most recently, the Montreal Impact, a franchise scheduled to join MLS in 2012. Testo is currently without a contract.

Testo, 30, told CBC Radio that his teammates were all aware of his sexual orientation and accepted him.

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