Luis Ayala’s impact on athletics at Foxcroft Academy and in the Dover-Foxcroft area is well known in that community.

As of Monday, the impact of the longtime wrestling and soccer coach’s efforts were celebrated for the entire country to see and appreciate.

U.S. Cellular announced that Ayala is the winner of the telecommunications company’s Most Valuable Coach program. He was selected from among thousands of nominated coaches from around the country.

Ayala’s efforts, which previously earned Foxcroft Academy a donation of $5,000, mean that the Foxcroft Academy athletic department will be the recipient of the $50,000 grand prize.

“It’s gotten bigger than I ever imagined it would be,” Ayala told the BDN last month . “It’s been an honor, a very humbling experience.”

Ayala, who is a health and physical education teacher at Foxcroft, chose the athletic department as the recipient of the grand prize. He also has earned a trip to Orlando, Fla., where he will be recognized on Jan. 4, 2018, during the Under Armour High School All-America Game.

U.S. Cellular’s Most Valuable Coach program began on Aug. 22 and gave people the opportunity to nominate, vote and honor their favorite high school coaches. Those efforts accounted for 20 percent of the final score.

The major portion of the decision on the winner came down to a panel of judges, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, former NBA champion Michael Cage and Emmy-winning sportscaster Tony Caridi. The judges evaluated the 15 Most Valuable Coach finalists based on their leadership qualities and the positive impact they have had on their community, school and players.

“We congratulate Coach Ayala on the well-deserved title of Most Valuable Coach. Coach Ayala has had a profound impact on the community, as well as his student athletes,” said Grant Leech, vice president of brand marketing at U.S. Cellular, in a news release. “This year’s nominees show that great coaches go beyond the game and help shape young men and women to be the best leaders, teammates and people they can be. It is clear that Coach Ayala embraces this mentality, and we are honored to celebrate him.”

Ayala, a native of Quito, Ecuador, has coached varsity soccer and wrestling at Foxcroft Academy for the past 18 years. He also has worked with local youth soccer teams and wrestling teams.

Ayala, whose teams have amassed more than 400 wins, is a four-time state and conference coach of the year. He has directed the Ponies wrestling team to six state championships.

He was nominated for the Most Valuable Coach program for leading by example, fundraising for the youth wrestling program, and passionately teaching life lessons that extend far beyond the soccer field and wrestling mat.

On Oct. 16, representatives from US Cellular visited Foxcroft Academy for the day and talked with Ayala, several faculty members and many of his players. There was a community assembly and that helped show why Ayala deserved this award.

“I teach and coach to help kids. It’s easy to get motivated when you are working with them,” Ayala said. “Throughout this whole contest, the amount of time people put into making this whole thing happen is mind blowing. I’m just so happy for our community.”

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