CHICAGO — In its 32nd year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company announced Caroline Campbell of Bryant High School as its 2016-17 Gatorade Arkansas Girls Soccer Player of the Year. Campbell is the first Gatorade Arkansas Girls Soccer Player of the Year to be chosen from Bryant High School. It is the second year in a row she has been chosen for the honor.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Campbell as Arkansas’ best high school girls soccer player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year award to be announced in June, Campbell joins an elite alumni association of past state soccer award-winners, including Alexi Lalas (1987-88, Cranbrook HS, Mich.), Steve Cherundolo (1996-97, Mt. Carmel HS, Calif.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.), Heather O’Reilly (2001-02, 2002-03, East Brunswick HS, N.J.), Matt Besler (2004-04, Blue Valley West HS, Kans.), Jack Harrison (2013-14, Berkshire HS, Mass.), Mallory Pugh (2014-15, Mountain Vista HS, Colo.).
The state’s returning Gatorade State Player of the Year, the 5-foot-4 senior forward scored 23 goals and passed for nine assists this past season, leading the Hornets (11-10) to the Class 7A state quarterfinals. A four-time First Team All-State selection Campbell is a member of the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Olympic Development Program squad. She concluded her prep soccer career with 128 goals and 45 assists.
Campbell has volunteered locally at a food pantry and as a youth soccer coach. “We game-planned for Caroline this season and were still handed a tough task,” said Michael Klucher, head coach of North Little Rock High School. “Her speed and ability to explode after the first touch is extremely hard to defend.”
Campbell has maintained a weighted 4.27 GPA in the classroom. She has signed a national letter of intent to play soccer on scholarship at the University of Arkansas beginning this fall.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which work with top sport- specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Two-time winner Campbell joins recent Gatorade Arkansas Girls Soccer Players of the Year McKenzie Dixon (2014-15 & 2013-14, Bentonville High School), Tayler Estrada (2012-13, 2011-12 & 2010–11, Bentonville High School), Anne Mitchell (2009-10, Fayetteville High School), April Miller (2008–09, Bentonville High School), Mary Pat Hardin (2007-08, Mount St. Mary Academy), and Alyvia Rogers (2006-07, Rogers High School) among the state’s list of former award winners.
As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Caroline will be able to select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a grant as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program. Every Gatorade Player of the Year state winner receives a $1,000 grant to donate and will have the opportunity to enter for an additional $10,000 spotlight grant by writing a brief essay explaining why their selected organization deserves additional support. 12 spotlight grants – one for each sport – will be announced throughout the year.