It's the middle of February, but Laura Flynn's life already is revolving around soccer.
Whether leading a community women's soccer clinic today, traveling to play at the Arctic Winter Games later this week or organizing preseason team workouts, the senior captain of the Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer squad shows a full-time dedication to the sport that helped her win selection as the Alaska's Gatorade State Player of the Year.
"I'm shocked," Flynn said Friday night after receiving the award during a surprise halftime ceremony at the Juneau-Kayhi boys basketball game. "I'm really, really honored. ...
"It's good incentive for me this season to play hard, to uphold this honor."
Flynn has been playing soccer since age 6, and has been on the Juneau varsity since her freshman year. After focusing on offense her first two years with the Crimson Bears, Flynn shifted to a central defensive position last season.
Flynn said she looked to veteran defenders like Liza Slotnick - who now plays college soccer - to help make the switch, and it paid big dividends.
"Everyone was asking, 'Where did she come from?'," Juneau co-coach Colin Barton said. "It was amazing to see her progress. ...
"When she plays soccer, she has an aura - I can see that about her. She's above everyone else in her maturity, soccer knowledge and ability to read the game."
"She has a knack for reading what is happening," Juneau co-coach Sandi Wagner said. "That's what we need - someone on defense who is a leader who can dictate to the team" what's occurring on the field.
And Flynn is organizing the team off the field off the field, too. She helped plan a series of preseason runs and workouts to help get the Crimson Bears in shape for their first games, which will take place in April.
"You couldn't ask for a harder worker, for someone more dedicated to the game," Wagner said. "She's determined to improve, determined to make our team better."
Flynn said the extra work is necessary, especially if the Crimson Bears hope to improve on last year's fourth-place finish at the state tournament.
"Our season is really short (so) we have to be really active before the season starts," she said.
Flynn said she hopes the award helps to raise the status and recognition of the Crimson Bears around the state.
"I hope it makes people look at Juneau, make them want to come down and play us," she said.
Today, Flynn is joining her teammates in running the second of two women's soccer clinics they organized this month. Later this week, she will be one of a large contingent of Alaska athletes traveling to Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, to participate in the 2004 Arctic Winter Games. Flynn - along with several of her Crimson Bear teammates - will be on an indoor soccer team for Team Alaska at the biennial event.
In addition to playing soccer, Flynn is involved in a host of other activities including National Honor Society, Juneau Youth Court and the Interact Club. She also coaches a Juneau Parks and Recreation soccer team.
Flynn is the first Juneau player to win the girls soccer award. Past Juneau winners in other sports include Callan Janowiec (volleyball), Robert Lossett and Justin Dorn (boys soccer), Meagan Gleason (girls basketball) and Carlos Boozer (boys basketball, twice).
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.