Last year, the small Rio Rico community celebrated when Carlos Villareal, then a senior at Rio Rico High School, was named the Gatorade Arizona cross country and track & field Athlete of the Year.
Those honors gave the town of 20,000 located just 14 miles from the southern Arizona border a piece of the national attention that goes along with the high-profile award, which recognizes athletes in all 50 states for their athletic and academic achievements.
And now, in a somewhat surprising move, the folks at Gatorade returned to Rio Rico to bestow its honor on a Rio Rico High female athlete. Allie Schadler is this year’s Gatorade Arizona Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
Like Villareal, Schadler also won the cross country award from Gatorade earlier this year and is the only female athlete at the school to win the awards.
While earning a 4.50 weighted GPA in the classroom this year, Schadler won the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter state titles in Division III. She also anchored the winning 4×400 and 4×800 relay teams in leading Rio Rico to a team second place at state.
Hamilton High School, a Division I school in a much bigger market, is home to the other Gatorade AOY.
Connor Stevens is this year’s recipient of the Gatorade Arizona Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year award. The senior at Hamilton won his third straight state title in the pole vault, clearing 17 feet to earn this year’s gold.
Stevens, who has committed to compete in track & field next year at the Air Force Academy, maintained a 4.07 weighted GPA this year.
After participating in three sports as a freshman, he turned his attention full-time to the pole vault. “Connor has since led his teammates to work harder and smarter,” said his coach, Vaughn Powers, “and his leadership was key to the third-place finish in our 2016 season.”