How they were chosen
Athletic directors from the 14 schools — Barron Collier, Community School, Estero, First Baptist, Golden Gate, Gulf Coast, Immokalee, Lely, Marco Island Academy, Naples, Palmetto Ridge, Seacrest, St. John Neumann and South Fort Myers — in the Daily News' coverage area were contacted and asked to have their coaches nominate players. That information, along with all-conference and all-district honors and postseason performances, were used to make up the teams and choose Players of the Year.
When Katy G. Solis arrived at Estero High School in 2009, Wildcats cross country coach Jeff Sommer knew the freshman from Bonita Springs was a determined runner, but figured that was about it.
"When she first came out, I saw she had a lot of heart," Sommer said, "but I didn't think she'd be that good."
Solis, a feisty runner whose 4-foot-9 frame battled its way past far bigger runners during her four varsity seasons, eventually extinguished her coach's pessimism.
"Katy kept getting stronger every week," Sommer said about the 2012 Naples Daily News Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Solis has been a key component in Estero's ascension into a state powerhouse, one that finished this season ranked 33rd in the nation. She stamped an exclamation point on her senior season last month when she edged teammate, lifelong best friend and future Ole Miss roommate Kacy Smith by a fraction of a second to claim the runner-up spot in the Class 3A final as the Wildcats won their third straight state championship.
For Solis, team accomplishments rank above individual ones.
"I know not many people can say they've been part of an amazing team that won back-to-back-to-back state championships. It's such an honor," she said.
Solis' time of 17:58 at states shattered her personal best by a whopping 30 seconds. Her other highlights included second place at district and three invitationals, and third place at regionals and LCAC.
"This year's training was so much harder than my freshman and sophomore years. It was more intense. It made a difference," Solis said.
Staying on the good side of her coach helped, too.
"Some kids you have to yell at," Sommer said. "With my coaching style, I probably go through three or four battles with just about every kid every season. I don't think Katy and I have had an argument in four years."
Solis also excels in the classroom, where she has a 4.5 grade-point average.
"She puts her studies first," Sommer said. "She'll be successful in life."