DALTON, Ga., June 11, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- In its 34th year of honoring the nation's most elite high school athletes, The Gatorade Company today announced Omar Hernandez of Dalton High School in Dalton, Ga. as the 2018-19 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Hernandez won the award for his accomplishments on and off the field, joining a group of Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year awardees that have gone on to have incredible success – in fact, eight former winners went on to win a National Championship and eight became MLS first round draft picks.
Omar was surprised with the trophy at his school surrounded by teammates, friends, family and coaches. Check out a video of the announcement here.
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 Hernandez as the nation's best high school boys soccer player. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Hernandez from nearly 460,000 high school boys soccer players nationwide. Hernandez is now a finalist for the most prestigious award in high school sports, the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, which is announced at a special ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.
"Omar is the most dangerous player I have ever had to game plan against," said Aaron Wessney, head coach of Sprayberry High. "His ability to use his left or right foot to strike the ball from distance, the power he has on his shot, his ability to shoot with very little space needed, his escapability from tight situations—I could go on and on."
The state's returning Gatorade Player of the Year, the 5-foot-10, 142-pound senior midfielder led the Catamounts to a 23-0 record and the Class AAAAAA state championship this past season. Hernandez recorded 16 goals and 17 assists, setting up two of Dalton's tallies against Gainesville in a 4-1 win that captured the state title. The Catamounts finished the season ranked as the nation's No. 1 team both in the USA TODAY Super 25 and the Top Drawer Soccer FAB 50. A two-time First Team All-State selection and the Atlanta Journal Constitution Co-Player of the Year, he concluded his prep soccer career with 78 goals and 64 assists, both school records
Hernandez has volunteered locally as a youth soccer coach and works nights and weekends on the manufacturing line at a local carpet factory. He also has maintained a weighted 3.30 GPA in the classroom and has signed a National Letter of Intent to play soccer on scholarship at Wake Forest University this fall.
"We reviewed more than 460,000 student-athletes who play soccer before selecting Omar Hernandez," said Gatorade Senior Vice President and General Manager Brett O'Brien. "He won because of his accomplishments both on and off the field, which is what makes Gatorade Player of the Year the most prestigious award in high school sports."
Through Gatorade's cause marketing platform "Play it Forward," Hernandez has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of his choosing. He is also eligible to submit an essay to win one of twelve $10,000 spotlight grants for the organization of choice, which will be announced throughout the year.
Each year a selection committee evaluates the nation's top talent in the District of Columbia and all 50 states, choosing national winners in 12 different sports: football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls track & field. From the 12 national winners, one male and one female athlete are each named Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year.
Since the program's inception in 1985, Gatorade Player of the Year award recipients have won hundreds of professional and college championships, and many have also turned into pillars in their communities, becoming coaches, business owners and educators. Previous winners include a distinguished list of athletes, such as Peyton Manning, Abby Wambach, Karl-Anthony Towns, Derek Jeter and many other sports icons. To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit www.Gatorade.com/POY, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GatoradePOY or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Gatorade.