Editorial: Saluting Dalton's Omar Hernandez, the Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year

What a wonderful, whirlwind few weeks it's been for Omar Hernandez — and the Dalton community.

Hernandez, a recent Dalton High School graduate and soccer team standout, and his Dalton High teammates have brought the national spotlight to the Carpet Capital of the World with their championship soccer play and championship character.

On Tuesday, Hernandez was named the 2018-19 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year during a ceremony in the school's media center as the top boys high school player in the entire country. Hernandez was eligible for the award after he won the Gatorade Georgia Boys Soccer Player of the Year last Friday. This was the second straight year that Hernandez won the state award, which is given to one player in each state as well as the District of Columbia. Gatorade honors the top high school student-athletes in 12 varsity sports for their "athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character."

The list of past Gatorade National Players of the Year is quite impressive, from football (NFL greats Peyton Manning and Emmitt Smith) to basketball (current NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Love) to baseball (MLB standouts Clayton Kershaw and Alex Rodriguez). Dalton's own Omar Hernandez is now among the most elite of high school athletes.

The accolades began on May 18 when the Dalton boys soccer team capped a perfect season (23-0) by winning the Class 6A Georgia High School Association championship. It was the first state title for Hernandez. This season, Dalton was ranked the No. 1 team nationally by both USA Today and TopDrawerSoccer.com. Hernandez will attend Wake Forest University on a soccer scholarship.

Hernandez was also a finalist for the USA Today ALL-USA National Player of the Year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution honored him as a first-team all-state member as well as co-player of the year with teammate Tony Saldana.

Now, Hernandez could win an even bigger honor — Gatorade's National Athlete of the Year, which is awarded to one male and one female at a banquet at the beginning of July in Los Angeles. Hernandez has been invited to travel to the ceremony where he and the 11 other athletes of the year will attend the ESPYs, ABC's national event honoring the top individuals and teams in sports for their athletic endeavors.

We offer our sincerest of congratulations to Hernandez, along with his teammates, coaches, teachers, mentors, family members and friends who have all played a role in helping him to this point in his life. Hernandez and his teammates have represented Dalton admirably, and we are excited to see what the future holds for each of them.

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