During her playing days at Parkersburg Catholic High School, and later as a member of the University of Tennessee Volunteers, Mary Ostrowski made an impact on every coach, player and fan fortunate enough to see her play.
However, those accomplishments occurred nearly 30 years ago and, as they say, history is wasted on the youth of today. Great players of the past are often overlooked for their accomplishments as they are inappropriately compared to today's crop of "super stars."
But, not forgotten by all.
Case in point the recent decision by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association to rename its Girls Player of the Year in basketball after the former-Crusaderette standout.
"I thought everybody had forgotten," explained Ostrowski when informed of the WVSPW's decision. "So many of the achievements of athletes in the past tend to get lost when compared to today's athletes."
Not in the case of Ostrowski, who was a three-time recipient of the then-Thom Award and captured the Amateur Athlete of the Year (Hardman) Award in 1979.
"She (Ostrowski) was so far ahead of her time," said former-PC head girls coach Dick Wildt. "She had more skills than anybody I've seen and I had some great players during my time at Catholic."
Skills that were honed during the wee hours of the mornings in the Crusaderette gymnasium.
"Mary had a drive," explained Doug Hoselton, who coached the Crusaderettes to back-to-back Class A state titles in 1977 and 1978. "I can still remember her calling me every morning to open the gym up at 5:30 so she could get some work in."
Practice that allowed her to become a four-time Class A all-state recipient and earn a full scholarship to continue her playing days for Pat Summit's Vols at Tennessee.
From the day the Parkersburg-native walked onto the court in Knoxville, she was an impact player-earning a starting berth during her freshman campaign and maintaining it over the next three seasons. Three times Ostrowski led the Vols in rebounding and twice in scoring as Tennessee finished as national runners-up in 1980-81 and 1983-84.
My first encounter with the local urban legend occurred on the baseball diamond.
Fueled by reports of a young pitching phenom that was mowing down hitters in record fashion in one of the area youth leagues, I made it a point to go and witness this spectacle for myself.
I wasn't disappointed as Ostrowski pitched a no-hitter, striking out all but three of the opponent's hitters while hitting the ball as well as any athlete on the field.
My surprise came following the game when I was introduced to "Mary" Ostrowski. It was an impression that caused me to follow her throughout her junior high and high school career and later when she played at Tennessee.
"I have a father (Chet) and a brother (Paul) that love sports, so it became natural for me to develop that same love," said the player.
Now the player, who has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma-a form of blood cancer-will take her rightful as the namesake of basketball's most cherished award in the Mountain State.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org