For the past 30 years, Gatorade has honored the nation’s most elite high school athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character with the Gatorade Player of the Year award. On July 14, the 12 Gatorade National Players of the Year from the 2014-15 season will gather in Hollywood, where the 13th annual Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year award will be presented to the best overall male and female athlete.
In the days leading to the presentation, USA TODAY High School Sports will profile each of the 12 candidates — six boys and six girls.
Holy Trinity Catholic High senior Mikaela Foecke lives in an Iowa city so small that the mayor is also the dentist, but her volleyball skills thrust Fort Madison into the national spotlight today when she was named the 2014-15 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. London Olympics silver medalist April Ross marked the occasion by surprising the teen in class with the trophy.
“When April Ross handed me that trophy, I was thinking, ‘Are you sure you have the right person?’” said Foecke, 17, a Nebraska commit. “It’s so overwhelming and so exciting. To even be considered for this honor is a rare opportunity. To win it is unbelievable.”
The 6-foot-3 middle blocker slammed 812 kills and amassed 270 digs, 170 service aces and 95 blocks this past season, leading the Crusaders to a 48-4 record and the school’s first state title in any sport. Foecke (Feck-ee) anchored the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team that won gold at last summer’s NORCECA Women’s U20 Continental Championship. She concluded her prep career with a state-record 2,813 kills.
It’s such a big moment at this stage of a kid’s career,” said Ross, 32, USA Volleyball’s 2014 Beach Player of the Year, who earned Gatorade’s national award as a high school senior in 1999-00. “Winning this signifies so much. She’s being tapped as the next big thing and that’s so validating to a young player’s confidence. It was for me.”
Foecke, 17, has maintained a 3.9 GPA in the classroom. A four-year member of the student council and an officer in her Lee County 4-H chapter, she has volunteered on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the Tri-State Rodeo. Also an altar-server at St. James Catholic Church and an Iowa State Fair Merit of Excellence award-winner, Foecke has donated her time to multiple community-service initiatives, including Lee County Fair Kids Day, Kids Against Hunger, St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the West Point citywide cleanup.
“In a state currently top heavy with elite volleyball talent, Foecke has been without peer for at least the past two years,” said John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com. “Though she plays ‘small-school ball,’ she’s a big-time performer, possessing the arm swing and power to dominate anywhere along the net, as well as the agility of a libero in a 6-3 body. Foecke can score against anyone at any time and could be a [collegiate] All-America performer early.”