PARKERSBURG Parkersburg finished as the runner-up in voting for TitleTown USA.
ESPN announced during its 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter that Valdosta, Ga., had won the TitleTown competition, receiving 29.2 percent of the votes cast at ESPN.com. Parkersburg was second with 24.4 percent, followed by Green Bay with 11.2 percent, Massillon, Ohio, with 6.7 percent, Boston with 5.8 percent and Gainesville, Fla., with 5.2 percent.
Valdosta High School is the winningest high school football program in America, with 838 wins. It claims six national and 23 state titles.
Its crosstown rival, Lowdnes High School, has four state football titles including three since 2004, while Valdosta State University has won two national football titles in the past four years.
Parkersburg was nominated for the 192 state championships captured by various sports teams at Parkersburg High, Parkersburg South and Parkersburg Catholic.
Local reaction to the news, which broke Monday morning, was mixed.
Ed Forshey said it was an honor for the city of Parkersburg to be a part of the 20 cities nominated, but he was critical of the way the voting was handled. In the beginning it was announced that people could vote as many times as they wanted, but ESPN changed it so only one vote would be counted per computer and other changes were done that put areas at a disadvantage, he said.
''(The TitleTown competition) was a great idea for them to do, but it became a joke,'' Forshey said. ''It was a great honor for Parkersburg to be included, but it took some of that away by the way the voting was done.''
Still, many people around the area, the state and beyond came out and supported the area, he said.
''That is typical of this area,'' Forshey said. ''When someone has a chance at a national title, the area will rally around them and support them. We had relatives out in California who were voting for us.''
Community Bank in Parkersburg encouraged employees to decorate their desks highlighting the different schools to remind and encourage employees and customers to vote in the competition, said Randy Snider, president and chief executive officer of Community Bank.
''It was a fun thing for them to do,'' he said. ''It was also a matter of pride.''
Snider said it was an accomplishment for Parkersburg to be included among the nominees.
''It was an honor for the community and the students at the local schools,'' he said.
Being a part of this competition has given the area a lot of national exposure, Snider said.
''I have gotten calls from people I know all around the country who saw this on ESPN who were really impressed,'' Snider said
Parkersburg Mayor Robert Newell said the area rallied behind the city.
''The people around the community did a good job promoting this event,'' he said.
Newell asked members of the West Virginia Municipal League to support Parkersburg. Gov. Joe Manchin asked state residents to support Parkersburg in the poll. Officials in Parkersburg, Iowa, where residents of Parkersburg, W.Va., sent humanitarian aid in the aftermath of a tornado in May, encouraged voters to vote for Parkersburg.
Newell said this area did not have the population to compete with the larger cities. Newell said he was glad a smaller town the size of Valdosta, which has about 50,000 people, won over the larger cities like Boston and New York.
''That is encouraging for all the smaller communities across the country,'' he said. ''I am just curious to see where we ranked in the final count.''
Dan Studenic of Atlanta, Ga., is a Parkersburg High alumnus and has been actively promoting Parkersburg online through blogs and other means.
''I feel (Parkersburg) should be it,'' he said.
Out of all the nominees, Studenic said Parkersburg had the purity of spirit that the cities with professional and college teams did not have.
''They're relying on the argument of professional teams, which are made up of transient migratory athletes, blown in and out by the winds of money, and which mostly hold residency in another states,'' Studenic said. ''The same goes for all the college town nominations, practically all of the student athletes keep residence elsewhere.''
It was the values people had locally which he felt put Parkersburg above the others on the list.
''It is not just about our individual accomplishments, but our parents and coaches from both sides of the river,'' Studenic said. ''Neighbors from all of Parkersburg's schools, rivals or not, closely followed community youth progress and accomplishments. Even the rivals supported each other when one went on to a greater level. I had friends from the other side of the river and they encouraged us and said hello every time they saw us on the streets.
''(Had) Parkersburg (been) elected TitleTown it would not be a proprietary result of the champions themselves, but a direct reflection of the community that supported, cultivated, cared and loved us. Unto itself, Parkersburg truly is a special place.''
Valdosta was informed of the results early Monday, said Larry Hanson, city manager of Valdosta.
'That's correct,'' Hanson told The Parkersburg News Monday morning. Hanson said he got confirmation from ESPN at around 8 a.m. Monday.
''We're very proud,'' Hanson said. ''We worked very hard as a community. We have an incredible legacy.''
Parkersburg and its three high schools have won 192 championships. But Valdosta has won more than 400 championships, including national titles, Hanson said. Numerous athletes from the town of 50,000 are major sports stars, he said.
Twenty cities were in the running: Valdosta; Parkersburg; Green Bay; Lawrence, Kan.; Pittsburgh; Knoxville, Tenn.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; Los Angeles; Palo Alto, Calif.; Louisville; Chicago; Boston; Gainesville, Fla.; New York City; Detroit; San Francisco; Williamsport, Pa.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Columbus, Ohio; and Massillon, Ohio.