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UConn Bound Breanna Stewart Wins Gatorade High School Girls’ Athlete of the Year

This Rant Sports columnist was fortunate enough to cover the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year Award’s live, and many one-on-one interviews, video, and analysis will follow. This year’s crop of athletes were truly exemplary; they displayed the athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character that distinguish a Gatorade High School Player of the Year.

These are the type of athletes and students that make their parents and classmates proud displaying both humility and well spoken-ness beyond their years.

The nominees are listed below and the winner is listed at the bottom.

VOLLEYBALL: Jordan Burgess, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)
Senior outside hitter

Athletic excellence: A 6-foot-1 senior outside hitter, Burgess led her team this season to a 30-2 record and its third consecutive state championship. She amassed 553 kills, 514 service receptions, 366 digs, 48 aces, 38 assists and 32 blocks while recording a hitting percentage of .457, earning honors as Florida Class 4A player of the year. A two-time state Gatorade Player of the Year and last year’s national runner-up, Burgess is rated by PrepVolleyball.com as the No. 1 recruit at her position and No. 3 overall in the class of 2012. She has signed a national letter of intent to attend Stanford University.

Academic Achievement: Burgess has maintained a 3.9 grade-point average, with a 2100 score on the SAT.

Exemplary Character: Burgess is a founding director of Everyone Should Play, an organization that raises funds to help disadvantaged youths with the high costs of playing competitive sports. She has managed the Berkeley Prep boys volleyball team for three seasons and is a fundraiser for Heifer International Livestock Charity. Burgess also has volunteered as a trainer for a youth volleyball program and joined hurricane relief efforts in 2008.

CROSS COUNTRY: Molly Seidel, University Lake School (Hartland, Wis.)
Senior distance runner

Athletic excellence: Earning an undefeated season in 2011, Seidel won her fourth consecutive Division 3 individual state championship, crossing the finish line more than 40 seconds ahead of her next-fastest competitor in 13:39.59. The 5-foot-4 senior and 2011 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Area Runner of the Year claimed first place at both the Foot Locker Midwest Regionals (in 17:08) and the Foot Locker National Finals (in 17:22). Seidel is the first Wisconsin runner to win the Foot Locker National Finals. She joins three-time Olympian Suzy Favor-Hamilton as the only Wisconsin runners to win state cross country titles all four years of their high school careers. Seidel is a four-time Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association First Team All-State selection and was featured in 2010 by Sport Illustrated in “Faces in the Crowd.”

Academic Achievement: Seidel is ranked first in her class and is a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist and a member of The Cum Laude Society. She scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT with a composite score of 34, recording a perfect score of 36 on the English portion of the test. Throughout her high school career she has maintained a grade-point average at or above a 4.0. Seidel has verbally committed to the University of Notre Dame.

Exemplary Character: Moral Seidel’s civic involvement is exemplary. She has led her school’s student government as vice president and treasurer, and she volunteers as a sailing instructor and for a community physical therapy program. She has also served through an interfaith meal ministry and is actively involved in volunteering initiatives through her church. Seidel is an accomplished pianist, ukulele player and choral singer.

Breanna Stewart, Cicero-North Syracuse (Syracuse, N.Y.)
Senior forward/center

Athletic excellence: The 6-foot-4-inch senior forward led the Northstars to a 19-3 record, the Section 3 Class AA championship and a berth in the Class AA state tournament semifinals. The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Stewart is averaging 25.7 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 3.2 assists and 3.2 steals entering the postseason final four. A member of the USA Basketball Women’s U19 National Team that won the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship, she has been selected to participate in both the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-America Game. Stewart is New York’s Section III career leader for points scored, and the HoopGurlz ESPNU 100 rates her as the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2012. Stewart will play basketball on athletic scholarship at the University of Connecticut this fall.

Academic Excellence: Stewart has maintained an A average in the classroom with a senior cumulative GPA of 4.08.

Exemplary Character: She has volunteered locally on behalf of Ronald McDonald House charities, the March of Dimes, the Special Olympics, The Salvation Army, youth basketball programs and a literacy-outreach program

SOCCER: Morgan Andrews, Milford (N.H.)
Junior midfielder

Athletic excellence: The 5-foot-9-inch junior forward scored 31 goals and passed for six assists this past season, leading the Spartans (11-6-1) to the Division II state quarterfinals. The returning Gatorade New Hampshire Girls Soccer Player of the Year, Andrews will captain Team USA at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan this fall. She was a finalist for 2011 U.S. Soccer Youth Athlete of the Year honors in a field that included collegiate All-Americans. The 2011 National Soccer Coaches Association of America National Girls Youth Player of the Year for club play and a two-time NSCAA All-American selection, she has 83 goals and 35 assists in three varsity campaigns. Andrews has thrice led New Hampshire’s Division II in scoring. Currently she’s verbally committed to play soccer on an athletic scholarship at Boston College beginning in the fall 2013.

Academic Achievement: Andrews has maintained a 3.17 GPA in the classroom. She will begin her senior year of high school this fall.

Exemplary Character: She founded and directs the Kicks for Cans charitable initiative, providing clinic-format training to area youth soccer players whose admission fee is canned food, which is donated to a local food bank. Andrews has also served as a community outreach volunteer for Share Barn, providing clothing and moral support to area needy. She has also volunteered locally as a youth soccer coach and mentor.

Geri Ann Glasco, Oconee County (Watkinsville, Ga.)
Senior right-handed pitcher/first baseman

Athletic excellence:

Named the Class 3A Player of the Year, Geri Ann Glasco posted a 19-0 record with a 0.50 ERA in the circle while batting .564 with 62 RBI and a state single-season record of 24 home runs. Checking in at 5 foot 6 inches, this senior right-handed pitcher led her team, the Warriors (38-2), to a Class 3A state championship last season. Now a four-time First Team All-State selection, she struck out 213 batters in 113 innings, firing 13 shutouts and four no-hitters. Glasco also broke the state career record for home runs (47) and doubles (58).

Academic Achievement: Glasco has maintained a B-plus average in the classroom and has signed a national letter of intent to play softball on scholarship at the University of Georgia this fall.

Exemplary Character: In addition to leading a Bible study group for high school peers, Glasco has volunteered as part of multiple community service initiatives in association with the Watkinsville First Baptist Church. She also has served as a local youth softball instructor on behalf of an elementary school literacy-outreach initiative.

TRACK & FIELD: Shelbi Vaughan, Legacy (Mansfield, Texas)
Senior discus thrower

Athletic excellence:
Vaughan, a 6-foot-2-inch senior, launched the discus 198 feet, 9 inches at this month’s USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships, setting the national high school and junior records in the event. She also finished fourth at the ongoing U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track & Field with a throw of 195 feet, 9 inches. One of only two girls in prep history to throw the discus over 190 feet, Vaughan has now crossed that barrier five times. She won the discus at the Class 5A state championships with a throw of 187 feet, 10 inches, and also took first by launching the shot put 50 feet, 1.25 inches.

Academic Achievement:
Vaughan has maintained a B-plus average in the classroom and has signed a national letter of intent to compete in track and field on scholarship at Texas A&M University this fall.

Exemplary Character:
In addition to assisting special needs students in physical education classes at her school, Vaughan spent time volunteering with her track team at Union Gospel Mission helping feed the homeless.

The national Gatorade Player of the Year Program was established in 1985, and the winners have gone on to illustrious careers and Olympic glory.

This year the winner was UCONN-bound Breanna Stewart; an interview with her will follow later this week, and cheers to all these exemplary high school athletes for being well rounded and superb.