Athletes of the Week: Alaska Soccer GPOYs Applegate and Butzke
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - These two student-athletes shared the same hallways at Dimond High School, shared the same practice field, and now share the same award as Gatorade Alaska Soccer Players of the Year.
Speaking of sharing, Keegynn Applegate is one of the best sharers in the state. The Dimond midfielder tallied 23 assists to go with six goals in just 16 games, leading the Lynx (15-0-1) to a Division 1 state championship not just in 2022, but in 2019 and 2021 as well.
“I definitely think in the beginning I didn’t always have that,” Applegate said of her unselfish mindset on the field. “But growing up in the game, for sure I learned that it was definitely a team sport, everything is easier when you do 11v11 not 1v11.”
Applegate has signed a Division I scholarship to George Mason University, is a First Team All-State Tournament member, a First Team All-Cook Inlet Conference selection, a First Team All-State honoree, and now, a Gatorade Player of the Year.
“It is funny because my parents told me when I was in bed, so I was still sleeping and my dad just came and gave me a big hug and said, ‘congratulations!’ and I was like very confused because I was like, ‘I just woke up, what did I do?’” she said of receiving the news of her award. “I was pretty excited, all of my teammates congratulated me and all of my coaches that have helped me and it is just really nice to have that support because I couldn’t have done it without them, for sure, because it is not a one-man show out there.”
“Keegynn Applegate had a great season and really dominated in the midfield,” said Jeremy Johnson, head coach at Colony High in the press release. “She works incredibly hard on both sides of the ball and she has great field vision, always looking to set her teammates up. She also has an incredible shot with a lot of power.”
Off the field, is a musician who plays the flute and electric bass, a leader of her church’s Youth Praise Team, and maintained a 3.97 GPA in the classroom with plans of becoming a nurse.
On the other side of the pitch, fellow Dimond senior Joseph Butzke just etched his name among Alaska’s best soccer players as a Gatorade Player of the Year.
“Considering I have played against some of the recent GPOYs, it was pretty amazing to see my name up there with them, and just knowing that I was comparable to those talents is a really great feeling.”
During his final high school season, Butzke netted 15 goals and dished out six assists, was named the Cook Inlet Conference Player of the Year, and is a three-time All-State selection.
“Butzke uses his size well and he’s one of the strongest players in the state,” said Dan Rufner, head coach at Service High in the press release. “He has a fantastic change of pace that is so quick that, while defenders know what to do, he still gets them to pause, then uses a quick step to unleash one of the best shots inside of the box that I’ve seen.”
All of those accolades and attributes helped him land a soccer scholarship with Fort Lewis College.
“Both of my siblings go to Fort Lewis and it was a really good environment, and the soccer team is really successful,” the 6-foot forward said of why the school was a good fit. “They have a lot of international players, which I thought would bring a different view to the game that I haven’t really seen, as Alaska soccer is kind of a closed environment. But other than that, Fort Lewis is just a very successful soccer team and I enjoyed talking with the coaches and going to their camps.”
Off the field, Butzke has volunteered locally on behalf of a food bank, youth soccer programs, Hospice of Anchorage, where his mother works, and the Clare House shelter for homeless women and children.
“It is a really great feeling just knowing that I am helping people who would need the help, and it is a pretty easy thing for me to do, so I just like helping them out.” he added.
Butzke maintained an eye-popping 4.07 GPA in high school and is interested in becoming a sports psychologist.
“My parents have always been on me to really study, and they really have been ‘student-athlete’ first, it is in the name, so I have always really had to say focused on my academics.”
As recipients of the award, both Butzke and Applegate have the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national organization of their choosing that helps young athletes realize the benefits of playing sports through Gatorade’s ‘Play it Forward’ platform.
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