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The Gatorade Player of the Year program is celebrating its 25th year in recognizing elite high school athletes throughout the nation. The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one award-winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school boys football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, boys baseball, girls softball and boys and girls track & field.

Ashton Purvis receives Gatorade Player of the Year Award from Leon Powe This week Oakland native and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Leon Powe helped surprise Ashton Purvis of Oakland, CA with the 2009-10 Gatorade National Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year award.  Leon surprised Ashton with great news at the East Oakland Youth Development Center, where Ashton was guest-teaching the Pathway to College class. Leon earned Gatorade California Boys Basketball Player of the Year himself honors in 2002-03.

Ashton, a 5-foot-8 senior sprinter, won the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.17 seconds and the 200-meter dash in 22.90 at the California Interscholastic Federation state championship meet this spring, leading the Mustangs to a fifth-place finish as a team. Her 200-meter time ranks as the nation’s No. 1 clocking among prep competitors in 2010, while her 100-meter time ranked No. 2. Ashton’s season-best 100 ranks sixth in prep history and only eight prep girls have ever run a faster 200.

In celebration of the larger 25th anniversary, Gatorade is hosting an online poll, which will allow you to decide the greatest girls track & field athlete of all time. You can cast your vote for your favorite athlete of all-time once per day at

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A month or so ago I did an email interview with US Olympic Hurdler, Damu Cherry-Mitchell after exchanging “tweets” with her on Twitter. I had posted about Kayla Williams winning vault at the World Championships and Damu shared the congratulations. That led to an email conversation and the opportunity to share a little more about Damu Cherry-Mitchell and her experiences as a youth athlete and now an Olympic athlete with my readers.

And now, in Damu’s own words:

Damu Cherry DC: “First I want to say the God is the reason why I am here and able to do what I do! Without God none of this would be possible! I am a world class 100 meter hurdler for the USA and Nike. I am a 2008 Olympian where I finished 4th. My personal best is 12.44 and my goal is to qualify for the 2012 Olympic team. I have been a professional for 7 years now. Thank you for your interest and I hope that I may be a blessing to others!”

SGP: How old were you when you started competing?

DC: I actually started competing when I was 10 years old as a gymnast! I started competing in track n high school when I was 16 years old.

SGP: Did you play other sports when you were younger?

DC: I was a gymnast for 7 years

SGP: Do you do other sports for recreation or cross-training?

DC: No, I do not do other sports because the demands of being a professional/world class athlete takes up most of my time and days!

SGP: What is your biggest challenge you have overcome?

DC: My biggest challenge is learning the technical aspect of hurdling! The 100 meter hurdles is a very technical event and it takes years to grasp.

SGP: What are your biggest challenges in practice?

DC: In practice my biggest challenge is making sure I pretend I am in a meet scenario because sometimes I tend to relax too much and when you are on an elite level you have to go above and beyond to reach your goals.

SGP:  Do you like competing? How do you channel your nerves?

DC: I love competing! I know that as long as I put the work in in practice I rarely have nerves! I use a lot of visualization so I can prepare my mind for the big day!

SGP: How many hours a day do you train?

DC: A typical day would be three to four hours of running/weight workouts! The rest of the day is filled with massage, chiropractic, acupuncture and stretching! Usually, my day starts at 9am and ends 5pm.

SGP: What is your favorite way to reward yourself for achieving your goals?

DC: Since our track season is so long I usually wait until our time off to reward myself which would include shopping, little junk food! I get one month off in October to have some fun and just rest!

SGP: What is your advice for young athletes?

DC: Always set goals for yourself and make sure everyday counts. Everyday isn’t a good day but take something positive out of the day and grow from it! Never give up and always expect to be great!

SGP: Who is your biggest role model?

DC: My biggest role model is my mother who is a cancer survivor! She fought through tough times and never gave up on herself and now she enjoys the benefits of traveling the world watching me compete! I think of her when I am having a bad day at practice or if I am tired in a run and she gives me that extra I need to push a little harder!

We hope you enjoyed this interview!

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Lauren Williams is on the Fast Track

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lauren At age 9, Lauren Williams is already a National champion and record holder in two events – the 100 (13.65) and 200-meter (28.48).

Lauren, who is the daughter of TrackMom Lorraine of, has been running since she was 5 and was hooked after her first two races (parks & rec meet where she won 2 blue ribbons). A year later, her Dad who is a former track & field athlete, became her coach, and her whole extended family has become her own cheering section at meets and a source of great support.

Jay Hicks at Pre Race Jitters did a really nice feature piece on Lauren recently and it gives a lot of insight into this young runner’s very bright future.

One of the reasons I think Lauren is going to go far in her track career is the great support she has in her family. Her mother Lorraine and I talk often and we always seem to get on the topic of balance and how to maintain that balance in our daughter’s lives. In the off season, Lauren tries out different sports like volleyball and cycling, dabbles in singing, and just does all the normal kid things.

During the competitive season, things get more serious, but Lorraine is always looking out for Lauren’s best interest by making sure she gets the proper nutrition, rest and injury care/prevention.

Remember her name – Lauren Williams – she is definitely on the fast track!

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