The show will be hosted by legendary television personality, journalist and former professional football player Michael Strahan and his co-host, NFL tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rob Gronkowski. Programming will include features on two young female athletes from the Midgets Sports Program at Dickinson High School.
The event will be streamed and will be free to watch on the UNITED STATES TODAY website.
The awards, which will include 25 sports with a finalist from each state, will feature Amy Fridely, a phenomenon in multiple sports; and Paige Balliet, an exceptional softball player who helped her team win a state title, representing the Western Edge of North Dakota on the national stage.
“When I found out about this I was really surprised and honored to have this,” Balliet said. “A lot of people around me were also very proud of me; and it’s just a pretty amazing and unbelievable feeling.
Paige Balliet in her softball jersey. (Photo courtesy of Paige Balliet)
Balliet, an outfielder with the Dickinson Midgets first team softball, has donned the black and orange since seventh year and capped her senior season with a state title. Balliet’s achievements off the pitch as the team leader matched his performance on the pitch for a total of 42 RBIs, 45 RBIs, two homers and 19 strikeouts over the year.
“It was a great thing to win with my team, with people that I grew up playing softball with,” said Balliet. “With these people and everything I’ve accomplished at the end of my season, I think that was the most important thing for me.”
Fridley, the multisport phenomenon who was also part of the state record-breaking softball team, will be honored for her winning season in gymnastics. Fridley and her teammates have held the state title for six consecutive seasons. Fridley led the Midget team and was the state all-around champion with a combined score of 38.400.
Amy Fridley holding her 2021 Female Athlete of the Year award. (Photo courtesy of Amy Fridley)
“The national and individual day was an incredible experience. Every day, after having hit everything, deep in my head, I say to myself: “I have just won the state”. I just started to cry, ”Fridley said. “I just know you worked so hard to make it happen and you have so many people who helped you make it happen. It really is an incredible feeling.
Fridley has competed with the Midgets since seventh year, but has been training since first year. A strong advocate of doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time, even when no one is watching, has helped shape his team into Championship caliber. Fridley expressed her own gratitude for the coaching staff she has worked with over the years, including legendary gymnastics trainer Kent Van Ellis.
“Our coaching staff is really great and I’m very grateful to them … Our program is really growing with (Head Coach Casey Berry) here and Mr. V has left a huge legacy on Casey.”
The nominees selected for the USA TODAY’s High School Sports Awards were chosen through statistical analysis and performance evaluation comprised of the winning Athletes of the Year from USA TODAY’s statewide awards programs . The show is presented by the US Polo Association, with the support and sponsorship of Kohl’s and Wilson.
A who’s who of professional athletic athletes will be on hand to honor the nominees and winners at an evening showcasing the best of high school athletics.