By Marty Gordon
The honors keep coming in for Blacksburg High school star Edric Zhang. Thursday, he was honored at the EPSY award show in Los Angeles for the Gatorade Player of the Year Awards.
Zhang was announced previously as Virginia’s Gatorade soccer player of the year. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound senior midfielder scored nine goals and passed for seven assists this past
season, leading the Bruins (18-2) to the Class 4 State Tournament quarterfinals.
The 2022 River Ridge District Player of the Year and a two-time All-Region 4D selection, Zhang was
invited to train with the U.S. Soccer Under-14, Under-15 and Under16 national teams in three
Having previously only played club soccer, he concluded his two-year prep soccer career with 12 goals
and 17 assists. In the summer of 2022, Zhang was selected to participate in the Virginia Aerospace
Science and Technology Scholars Summer Camp fully funded by NASA. A research intern in Virginia
Tech’s College of Engineering, he has volunteered locally as the manager of the Blacksburg High School
store. He has also donated his time on behalf of a food pantry and as a youth soccer coach.
“We never had an answer for Edric’s speed, creativity and ability,” said Dave Atkins, head coach of
Salem High School. “He has a rare combination of physical size, speed and skill on the ball that make him
very hard to defend.”
While being outstanding on the field, Zhang has also been an outstanding student in the classroom, which he was honored for during the EPSY’s. Zhang (was awarded the Academic Achievement Awards for his efforts in the classroom.
He will attend Princeton University after finishing high school with a 4.66 weighted GPA in the classroom. Zhang is also a National Honors Society member, a research intern at the Virginia Tech College of Engineering and was selected to participate in NASA-sponsored Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars Summer Camp at the NASA Langley Research Center.
The Gatorade Player of the Year Awards celebrates the next generation of great athletes for their incredible accomplishments on and off the playing field. Each year, Gatorade brings together its 12 National Players of the Year, the best of the best in high school sports, to recognize their accomplishments and celebrate their bright futures alongside professional athletes and industry tastemakers.
Because the Gatorade Player of the Year program recognizes excellence on and off the field of play, awards were also presented in categories across academics, athletics and community impact. Selected from all of the state Player of the Year winners, Alexa Pino (2022-23 Gatorade Connecticut Girls Soccer Player of the Year) won the Highlight of the Year award. Myah Selland (2016-17 Gatorade South Dakota Girls Basketball Player of the Year) took home the Community Grant Award for her commitment to sportsmanship, character and community, while Zhang (2022-23 Gatorade Virginia Boys Soccer Player of the Year) was awarded the Academic Achievement Awards for his efforts in the classroom.
“Each year, we’re thrilled to bring the 12 Gatorade National Players of the Year to Los Angeles for a truly special, one-of-a-kind experience to celebrate their amazing accomplishments on and off the field,” said Gatorade Portfolio president and general manager Michael Del Pozzo. “The star-studded event is a glimpse into their undoubtably successful careers and futures as they join previous winners of the prestigious Gatorade Player of the Year award.”
The Player of the Year Awards are the culmination of an unparalleled three-day journey for the Gatorade National Players of the Year, who get to experience Los Angeles like a professional athlete with 5-star accommodations, educational opportunities, a trip to the ESPYs and more. As part of the experience, Gatorade and its national winners stopped by First Break Academy, an award-winning community tennis program empowering Los Angeles youth to excel in tennis, academics and life, to play tennis and answer questions on what it takes to reach the next level. Gatorade’s Head of Athlete Intelligence and Community Impact Tommy Adams also presented a check on behalf of Gatorade to cover the organization’s travel, rental and tournament fees to provide athletes with an equitable and safe place to play.
Additionally, all Gatorade State Players of the Year have the opportunity to give back, each awarding a $1,000 grant to a local or national organization of their choosing that helps young athletes realize the benefits of playing sports. Gatorade also awards one spotlight grant of $10,000 for each of the 12 sports recognized by the program. To date, Gatorade Player of the Year winners’ grants have totaled more than $4.4 million across more than 1,800 organizations. Gatorade also gave an additional $25,000 grant to the second-annual Gatorade Community Grant Award winner, presented at the Gatorade Player of the Year Awards.