Miege's Payton Verhulst named USA Today national high school female athlete of the year

Brent Maycock
Topeka Capital-Journal
Already named the overall female athlete of the year at last month's Kansas High School Sports Awards show, Miege's Payton Verhulst was named the national female athlete of the year during Thursday's USA Today High School Sports Awards show.
Bishop Miege's Payton Verhulst (12) spikes the ball in their championship game against Andale in the Class 4A State Volleyball tournament Saturday evening at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson. Bishop Miege defeated Andale 25-23, 25-13.

The awards have been numerous for Payton Verhulst throughout her career at Bishop Miege.

Three-time Eastern Kansas League MVP. Three-time first-team All-State Top 5 selection by The Capital-Journal. Class 4A volleyball player of the year. Gatorade Kansas girls basketball Player of the Year. US National team MVP.

And last month, she was named the girls' basketball player of the year and the overall female athlete of the year at the Kansas High School Sports Awards show.

But now comes perhaps Verhulst's biggest honor. On Thursday night at the USA Today High School Sports Awards Show, Verhulst was named the national female athlete of the year.

The Louisville basketball signee was honored for a senior season, and career, that was extraordinary.

In the litany of great players who have taken the basketball court for Bishop Miege over the years, Verhulst may go down as the best ever for the Stags. She led Miege to two Class 4A state basketball championships and a runner-up finish in her four years, the other season cut short when COVID-19 concerns canceled the state tournament.

Verhulst, who averaged 19.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a senior and 15.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in her career, transcended the high school game. A top-10 recruit nationally who signed with Louisville and was selected to play in the McDonald's High School All-American game, Verhulst has starred for the U.S. U-16 National Team that took the gold medal at the 2019 FIBA Americas Championship, earning MVP honors at the tourney.

The Gatorade Player of the Year in basketball, Verhulst also was named the Class 4A volleyball player of the year this year after leading the Stags to the state championship.

Verhulst and all other individual sport winners from the Kansas High School Sports Awards Show were eligible to win the national honor in their respective sports. While Verhulst didn't take home the girls' basketball honor, her overall body of work earned her the overall female athlete of the year honor.

One other Kansan was a top-three finalist in their respective sport. Kapaun's Clara Whitaker was a finalist in girls tennis after finishing her career as a four-time Class 5A state singles champion, one of only a handful of players in state history to accomplish the feat.

The USA Today showed aired Thursday night and is available to watch on YouTube and USA TODAY News and USA TODAY Sports Wire Channels, available on Roku, Samsung, and on most smart televisions. The show was presented by U.S. Polo Assn. and hosted by Michael Strahan and Rob Gronkowski.