Vansant named Gatorade National Player of the Year

Here’s my story from the proceedings at REV today.

With one announcement in the Redlands East Valley principal’s office Wednesday morning, REV senior volleyball Krista Vansant was given a lifelong connection to athletes such as Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, Kerri Walsh and LeBron James.

Vansant joined that echleon of elite athlete Wednesday, as she was named the 2010-11 Gatorade National High School Volleyball Player of the Year.

“My brain turns to mush when thinking about things like this,” Vansant said. “It is such an honor and I don’t even know what to say. I never expected anything like this to happen.”

It was an honor that was kept from Vansant for almost a week, as her mother Tricia — who also served as her coach at REV before retiring after this past season concluded — was contacted by Gatorade this past Thursday letting her know about the honor with explicit instructions not to tell her daughter.

“They told me both honors at once,” Tricia said. “They called up and told me that she won the state player of the year and then right after told me about the national player of the year. I started yelling in the garage and they told me to keep it quiet.

“All the while Krista is trying to find me to have me take her to practice. Luckily she never asked and I was able to tell family and friends and make sure they would keep it a secret.”

Krista found out about winning the California Player of the Year honor from backchannels. But when she went to REV on Wednesday, she wasn’t anticipating what was about to happen.

“I seriously thought I was on Punk’d,” said Vansant, referencing the practical-joke television show that used to run on MTV. “I was looking around thinking “Ashton (Kutcher), Ashton? I was completely shocked.

“I saw April Ross and I knew who she was right away. I remember watching her play at USC and was so excited, though I basically just sat there smiling because I didn’t know what else to do.”

Ross, the 1999-2000 winner, was among a crowd of family, friends, teammates and REV students that honored Vansant during an assembly. The current pro beach volleyball champion recalled when she was awarded the honor when she was a senior at Newport Harbor High School and shared in Vansant’s joy.

“It’s one of the best honors I’ve ever received,” Ross said. “It really showed me that I had the ability to really be good at this sport and I think it will be the same for Krista. Being alonside people such as Kobe Bryant is a real honor.”

Vansant became the second county athlete to become a Gatorade Player of the Year, joining Chino track and field athlete Angela Williams, who was honored in 1997-98. And Wednesday might not be the last honor bestowed on Vansant by Gatorade.

After being chosen as the premier volleyball player from a field of approximately 403,000 high school players in the United States, Vansant has a chance to be chosen as the overall Gatorade National Female Athlete of the Year in July.

Vansant will be honored at a luncheon in Hollywood in July where the National Player of Year will be named. Then she’ll be whisked off to the ESPYs, where she’ll get to walk the red carpet and rub elbows with some of the athletes whose company she joined Wednesday.

“Oh yeah, I can go right up to Kobe now,” Vansant said. “Well, I don’t know about that. He has five NBA titles — I’m not quite in that class.”

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