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: Jenna Lilley
School: Hoover (North Canton, Ohio)
Athletic Production: The start of the Ohio prep softball season is still weeks away, but Lilley has already had to make additions to the Honors portion of her resume. Student Sports ranked Lilley the No. 1 player on its Hot 100 Seniors list, and MaxPreps named her a Preseason All-American.
As Ohio’s reigning Gatorade Softball Player of the Year, the senior shortstop is coming off a junior season in which she batted a cool .690 with seven home runs, 56 RBI, 46 runs scored and a 1.296 slugging percentage, leading the Vikings to a 34-0 season and a third consecutive Division I state championship in 2013.
The quest for a fourth straight title begins April 25, and Lilley reportedly showed up with a few more inches and a boatload more muscle on her former 5-foot-4 frame—a scary thought for someone who nearly submitted the third .700 season at the plate in state history last year.
Academic Achievement: Lilley has maintained an A average and has signed with Oregon.
Exemplary Character: A member of her school’s peer-leadership group and Spanish Club, Lilley has also volunteered locally on behalf of the YMCA and the Stark County Humane Society. She has also donated her time as an elementary school carnival volunteer and as a youth softball coach and camp counselor.