ESPY Awards: It's show time for NH's Andrews, Arlen
Milford's Morgan Andrews was in Los Angeles Tuesday night to accept her second consecutive Gatorade National Girls' Soccer Player of the Year award.
She'll be there again tonight, when she attends the ESPY Awards show and roots for a fellow Granite Stater who's among the nominees recognized by sports network behemoth ESPN.
Parlympics swimming champion Victoria Arlen of Exeter is up for an ESPY as Best Female Athlete with a Disability, and Andrews is pulling for her fellow New Hampshire 18-year-old.
"I've never met her, but I have read so many amazing stories about her," Andrews said of Arlen. "She's an inspiration to me. She's motivated me to be a better person and athlete."
Andrews and Arlen would have met at an awards event earlier this year — The Leaders: a Celebration of New Hampshire Sports Champions — but Andrews was snowed-in in Philadelphia, the last stop on her journey home from a development camp for a national women's soccer team.
Andrews was honored at that event as a Union Leader Athlete of the Month and 2012 Red Rolfe Female Athlete of the Year, while Arlen received an Athlete of the Month Award of her own, as well as a Special Recognition Award for the inspiration she's provided in overcoming paralysis and a prolonged period in a vegetative state.
Tuesday night the spotlight belonged to Andrews, only the ninth high school athlete to win two Gatorade national awards and the first to do so in girls' soccer. She also was a candidate for Gatorade National Athlete of the Year.
"To win it once is incredible, and now it's like I'm in shock," she said. "I have so many people to thank, especially all my teammates and coaches at Milford High. To be the first soccer player from New Hampshire to win this last year meant a lot to me. Now I'm going back to accept another one, and I'll be honest: You never get sick of it. It's truly an honor."
The award recognizes athletic excellence, high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.
Andrews topped a list of 400,000 girls' soccer players nationwide. She was selected by a national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists.
Last fall the 5-foot-9 senior forward led the Spartans to a 16-3-1 record and the Division II state title. In the championship game, Andrews provided all the Milford scoring as the Spartans edged arch-rival Souhegan High of Amherst, 2-1. That gave her 31 goals and 18 assists in a season shortened by her participation on the USA Soccer 17-under women's team in the Junior World Cup.
The captain of the 17-under team, she also was among the player pools for the national 20-under and 23-under teams.
The 2012 National Soccer Coaches Association of America High School Player of the Year and a three-time NSCAA All-America selection, Andrews concluded her high school career with 114 goals and 53 assists. She also maintained a 3.13 grade-point average in the classroom.
Next month she'll begin her college career at Notre Dame.
"Courageous" and "determined" best describe Arlen, 18, who lost the use of her legs due to a viral disease called transverse myelitis.
In the 2012 Paralympic Games at London, the Exeter High student won a gold medal and three silvers, setting a world record in the 100-meter freestyle (1 minute 13.33 seconds).
Despite the international recognition she'd already achieved, Alren said she was shocked when she learned she'd been nominated for an ESPY.
"It's just an incredible honor," she said.
Actually winning the award would be even more incredible. It also would fulfill a goal Arlen set for herself when she was in the early stages of her recovery.
"I was struggling with my health at the time, and I remember watching the program and telling my mom that I was going to get one of those some day,'" she said. "Now that I'm going (to the awards show), it's impressive and cool. I'm really pumped up about it."
Whether she wins or not, she'll cherish the experience, she said.
"Just being there is enough for me, and being with my family is extra special," she said. "Through the good and bad times, my family and close friends have been with me. I wouldn't have it any other way."