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Harvard-Westlake's Amy Weissenbach Joins Best High School Athletes in U.S.

Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix from North Hills attended the event, which had three California finalists.

One word describes A's reaction when she found out she had been selected the: disbelief.

The Harvard-Westlake High junior joined 11 other prep standouts at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood for the ninth annual Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year Awards on Tuesday night, hosted by ESPN sportscaster and anchor Stuart Scott.

The event culminated a season in which Weissenbach established a new national federation record of 2:02.04 in the 800 meters at the CIF state finals in June. She just returned from Lille, France, where she was fourth at the World Youth Championships.

Of the 7.5 million high school athletes across the country, Weissenbach was one of six female finalists for the Athlete of the Year Award and although she didn't win—that honor went to soccer player Morgan Brian of Frederica Academy in St. Simons, Ga.—she felt honored just to there.

"Even winning the California state award was a big surprise because there are so many amazing athletes," Weissenbach said. "So to win the national award and be invited here was completely unexpected. It's an experience I'll never forget."

Two of Weissenbach's fellow nominees were also from California: volleyball player Krista Vansant of Redlands East Valley and basketball player Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of Mater Dei High in Santa Ana. Also among the finalists was cross country runner Aisling Cuffe of Cornwall Central High in New Windsor, N.Y.

"I met her briefly at the New Balance Nationals," Weissenbach said. "And of course I've heard all about her. She's an incredible runner!"
Weissenbach sat next to another incredible track runner at Tuesday night's dinner—Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix, the 2003 Gatorade Athlete of the Year winner.

"I've met Amy a few times because one of my good friends [Joanna Hayes] is a coach at Harvard-Westlake," said Felix, a graduate of Los Angeles Baptist High in North Hills. "She's already done amazing things and she's only a junior so she has a really bright future."

Felix said winning the award served as a springboard to her later success as a sprinter at  USC and now as a professional.

"It was definitely the highlight of my high school career and it motivated me to keep up with [my fellow winners], Felix said. "My advice to Amy is to work as hard as she can but also enjoy every moment because it goes so fast."

Asked how she can possibly top this year, Weissenbach admitted it will be hard but she hopes to win a third consecutive state title next spring and break the national record of 2:00.07 set by Kim Gallagher of Pennsylvania in 1982.   

"Hers is the real [high school] record, mine was the fastest in a high school-only race," Weissenbach said. "I'd like to run under two minutes."

Former WNBA star Lisa Leslie and 2004 Olympic softball gold medalist Jessica Mendoza presented the girls award Tuesday while Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and Minnesota Timberwolves center Kevin Love presented the boys award, which was won by Owasso High, Okla. pitcher Dylan Bundy, who was recently selected fourth by Baltimore in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft.

Since 1985, Gatorade has recognized state and national players of the year in 12 sports (six male, six female). Winners are selected by a panel of nationwide sporstwriters and commentators.

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