On Monday, Dodge City High School boy’s soccer defender Miguel Baca was named the 2016-17 Gatorade Kansas Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

The award honors outstanding athletic achievement and high standards of academic excellence according to press release put out by Gatorade.

Baca found out he had won the award as he was heading into work as Hudl, a website that allows athletes to upload highlight film and a partner with Gatorade for the award, followed him on Twitter.

“It wasn’t expected,” Baca said. “I was surprised. I told my co-workers and they were excited for me.”

Baca is the first Dodge City athlete in any sport to receive the honor.

“You don’t see that come across everyday,” Dodge City High School Athletics Director Jay Gifford said. “When got the official notification that he had won, we were just really excited for Miguel and for the team and for Dodge City High School.”

Baca was a key piece in the Red Demons undefeated 21-0 season and 6A State Championship last season. The 5′10", 170-pound junior anchored a defense that allowed just nine goals all season while putting up shut-outs in all five postseason matches.

Baca was named the 6A Co-Defensive Player of the Year and was named first team all-state.

“I was really happy for him,” Dodge City boys soccer head coach Saul Hernandez said. “It had been something that we were looking forward to since we put in the application in December. So we were just really anxious and the closer we got, the more anxious we were.”

Gifford acknowledges that it may be harder for kids growing up in southwest Kansas to be noticed for these types of awards but also has faith that when the right kind of player comes around, it becomes much less of a problem.  

“I always feel like we have to work a little bit harder because of where we’re at and the lack of a bigger media presence, so it feels good to see one of our kids to get an award like this,” Gifford said. “There may have been some more over the years that may have deserved this kind of recognition that didn’t get it but it does prove too that if a kid works hard, has a great season and buys into the program that those awards will find you.”

In addition to his athletic achievements, Baca is a member of the gifted program at DCHS and currently totes a 4.03 weighted GPA.

Baca also volunteers as a teacher at his church as a youth mentor and has assisted as a weightlifting coach to middle-schoolers.

As part of his honors, Baca will select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a grant provided by Gatorade’s Play it Forward program. Baca will also have the opportunity to enter to win another 10,000 dollar spotlight grant by writing a brief essay describing why his selected organization is deserving.

At this time Baca has not decided where that grant will go but will decide with the help of Hernandez sometime soon.

“I feel honored and we’re going to try to find the right organization,” Baca said. “Everyone has been extremely supportive throughout this whole process.