In its 28th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, announced Rachel Erickson of Cheyenne East High School as its 2012-13 Gatorade Wyoming Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

Erickson is the second Gatorade Wyoming Girls Soccer Player of the Year to be chosen from Cheyenne East High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Erickson as Wyoming’s best high school girls soccer player.

Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year award to be announced in May, Erickson joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.), Derek Jeter (1991-92, Kalamazoo HS, Mich.), Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Alexi Lalas (1987-88, Cranbrook HS, Mich.), Heather O’Reilly (2001-02, East Brunswick HS, N.J.) and Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.).

The 5-foot-10 junior forward led the Thunderbirds to a 13-2-2 record and the Class 4A state championship this past season.

A two-time All-State and All-Region selection, Erickson scored 15 goals and passed for four assists.

Erickson has maintained a 3.88 GPA in the classroom.

Also a basketball standout, she has volunteered locally on behalf of the Special Olympics and youth sports programs.

“She’s a very skilled player,” said Tom Racette, head coach at Sheridan High. “She’s aggressive on the ball and she makes great decisions.”

Erickson will begin her senior year of high school this fall.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.

The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Erickson joins recent Gatorade Wyoming Girls Soccer Players of the Year Marcia Ashdown (2011-12, Riverton High School), Sheree Small (2010 – 11, Campbell County High School), Makenzie Meade (2009-10, Laramie), Ariela Schreibeis (2008–09 & 2007-08, Laramie), and Crystal Umphlett (2006-2007, Cody) among the state’s list of former award winners.