LOS ANGELES -- Johnathan Gray and Breanna Stewart both possess lofty goals as they enter the next phase of their respective athletic careers. For now, however, they can enjoy reaching the top of the prep sports world as the 2012 Gatorade Male and Female High School Athletes of the Year.
Gray, a class of 2012 running back from Aledo (Texas), and Stewart, a class of 2012 basketball forward from Cicero-North Syracuse (North Syracuse, N.Y.), were honored Tuesday during a ceremony at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles. The event was hosted by ESPN's Stuart Scott, and attended by stars such as Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, women's soccer icon Brandi Chastain and NBA champion Alonzo Mourning.
Gray, 18, became the fourth football player to win Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year in the award's 10-year history, joining Greg Paulus in 2005, Matt Barkley in 2008 and Garrett Gilbert in 2009. Gray is a two-time Gatorade Texas Football Player of the Year, and was the 2010 and 2011 ESPNHS Mr. Football USA player of the year.
"This has been such a blessing," Gray said. "When I heard my name called, there were just so many emotions that went through my mind. I can always say that I'll be part of the Gatorade family now. My name will always be on that trophy, and I'm just enjoying it."
As a senior last fall, the 5-foot-10, 202-pound Gray finished the season with 3,886 rushing yards and a state-record 65 rushing touchdowns on 347 carries. He also caught 26 passes for 517 yards and five TDs.
Gray set a national record with 205 career touchdowns, and his 1,232 career points rank second nationally. He set state records in career carries (1,218) and 100-yard games (51), becoming just the fifth prep back in history to surpass 10,000 career rushing yards (10,889).
Bound for the University of Texas, he maintained a B-plus average in the classroom, and volunteered locally as a youth group mentor in his church community and on behalf of an alcohol- and drug-awareness collaborative.
"Even if I had won the award, I think I would have given it to Johnathan Gray," said Jabari Parker, a rising senior at Simeon (Chicago) who was a finalist for the award after winning Gatorade National Boys' Basketball Player of the Year. "I really think he deserved it the most. When you look at his stats and everything he accomplished, it's just amazing."
Stewart, who will turn 18 next month, became the sixth basketball player to claim Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year honors, joining Candace Parker in 2004, Tina Charles in 2006, Maya Moore in 2007, Skylar Diggins in 2009 and Chiney Ogwumike in 2010.
A University of Connecticut recruit, Stewart was named the 2012 Naismith Girls' High School Basketball Player of the Year and the 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year. She led the Northstars to a 23-3 record, a second straight New York State Public School AA championship and New York's Class AA Federation Tournament of Champions title.
"I was not expecting to hear my name called at all," Stewart said. "I was just coming to have fun and enjoy myself, and when they said my name, it was just icing on the cake. To see my name with all the other amazing athletes who have won this award really puts it into perspective of what it really means."
Stewart averaged 26.4 points, 14.2 rebounds, 4.2 blocks, 3.2 assists and 3.1 steals per game as a senior this winter. A 2012 McDonald's All-American, Stewart was named to the all-tournament team at the 2011 FIBA U-19 World Championships while anchoring Team USA to a gold medal.
Stewart maintained an A-minus average in the classroom. She volunteered locally on behalf of the Salvation Army, the Special Olympics, the March of Dimes and the Ronald McDonald House charities, and as a youth basketball instructor at the YMCA.
"All of these athletes have that certain drive inside them," said Jordan Burgess, a class of 2012 outside hitter from Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) who was a finalist after winning Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. "They all have a kind of quiet confidence about them, and you can tell Breanna has that, too. She is definitely very deserving to win athlete of the year."
The Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year program began in 2003. One male winner and one female winner are chosen annually from the program's national player of the year honorees in six boys' sports and six girls' sports. The national player of the year award selection process is administered by ESPNHS.
The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field of play.
"Everything about this experience has been so incredible," said Morgan Andrews, a rising senior midfielder from Milford (N.H.) who was the Gatorade National Girls' Soccer Player of the Year. "There are so many athletes out there that I looked up to as role models. Now being part of the Gatorade family, it's exciting to know that I can also be a role model for athletes to come."