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Under-19 U.S. Striker Heather O'Reilly Named 2002 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year

CHICAGO (March 4, 2003) – Forward Heather O’Reilly, one of the rising young stars in the U.S. Women’s National Team program, has been named the 2002 Gatorade National High School Girl’s Soccer Player of the Year. The East Brunswick High School (N.J.) senior becomes the sixth U.S. women’s player so honored since the award was instituted in 1997.

Honoring the nation’s elite high school athletes for 18 years, Gatorade® Thirst Quencher, in partnership with Scholastic Coach & Athletic Director magazine, made the announcement today at a press event held at EBHS. The award, which recognizes athletic achievement and overall character, distinguishes O’Reilly as the nation’s best high school female soccer player.

"I have had such a great time during my high school years, and I owe my development as a person and a player to the people, coaches and teammates who have been around me and supported me from the beginning," said O’Reilly. "The last two years have been filled with amazing memories and experiences and I am so honored to receive this award. I just want to thank Gatorade for their great support of girl’s soccer."

Previous award winners include Jill Oakes (2001), a UCLA freshman and star along with O’Reilly on the USA’s U-19 World Championship Team; Mary McDowell (2000), a member of the USA’s U-21 National Team who attends UNC; Aleisha Cramer (1999), a senior at BYU and the 2001 Chevrolet U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year; Christie Welsh (1998), the 2001 MAC and Herman Trophy Winner and the second pick in the 2003 WUSA Draft by the New York Power; and Aly Wagner (1997), the winner of the 2002 MAC Hermann Trophy and the first pick in the 2003 WUSA Draft by the San Diego Spirit.

Although she missed part of her senior high school season while playing for the U.S. National Teams, O’Reilly scored 15 goals in leading her team to the Middlesex County tournament finals. She ended her four-year high school career with 136 goals and was named the Newark Star-Ledger Girl’s State Player of the Year for the past two years. O’Reilly, who holds a 3.7 GPA, and is a member of the National Honor Society, was also the starting point guard for the Lady Bears basketball team this year. She was previously named the NSCAA High School Player of the Year for 2002. O’Reilly has signed a letter of intent to attend the North Carolina.

O’Reilly burst onto the international scene with the U.S. U-19s in 2001 and 2002, helping the USA win the first-ever FIFA U-19 World Championship last September in Canada. O’Reilly scored four goals and had a team-leading seven assists in the tournament as the USA defeated Canada for the title, 1-0, in sudden death overtime in front of almost 50,000 fans in Edmonton. For her U-19 career, O’Reilly scored 18 goals in 18 international matches. She is still age-eligible for next FIFA U-19 World Championship to be held in 2004.

O’Reilly, who was last week named to the USA’s Algarve Cup roster for the prestigious tournament in Portugal in mid-March, has played 13 times for the full U.S. Women’s National Team, scoring two goals. Her first came against Italy at the 2002 Nike U.S. Women’s Cup and she recently scored against Norway in the USA’s 3-1 win at the Four Nations Tournament in China.

"Heather is an amazing person," said U.S. U-19 head coach Tracey Leone. "There are so many facets of her life that are well beyond her years, but especially her commitment to excellence. I have been privileged to watch her development over the past few years and I know there are more great things ahead for her."

The Gatorade National High School Girl’s Soccer Player of the Year selection was made by the Gatorade National Advisory Board, comprised of 10 sportswriters and sport-specific experts who collected nominations from across the country. O’Reilly was selected from more than 297,000 female high school soccer players nationwide.