Each season, Gatorade recognizes one student-athlete from each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., who embodies its Player of the Year program’s three pillars: athletic production, academic achievement and exemplary character.
Each week during its Gatorade State Player of the Year selection process, USA TODAY surfaces one candidate who meets those criteria and deserves recognition as a serious Gatorade State Player of the Year contender.
Name: Jessica Walker
School: Grove (Okla.)
Athletic Production: Competing in one of few states that holds softball in the fall, Walker led the Ridgerunners to a 26-5 record and the Class 5A state championship this past season.
Walker earned the win in all five of her postseason starts, including a complete-game six-hitter in a 3-2 title-clinching victory against Chickasha (Okla.). The Jacksonville-bound senior also belted a solo home run that proved to be the difference in the championship game.
Walker owned a 23-5 record and a 0.64 ERA in the circle this past fall, recording 17 shutouts and 278 strikeouts in 133 innings-pitched.
Academic Achievement: She has maintained an A average.
Exemplary Character: An elected member of her school’s student council and a devoted parishioner in her church community, Walker has volunteered locally as a youth softball instructor and on behalf of a women’s shelter.