ALBRIGHT: Plenty to look forward to in the 2019-20 prep sports season

Melancholia often sets in as the calendar flips from May to June. Unavoidable as it is, the end of the high school sports season always stings a little bit. Seniors graduate, special teams break up, and several good byes are uttered for the last time after year(s) of kinship.

Releases of the all-state lists for prep softball and baseball, along with each’s player of the year, provide a celebratory wrap-up off the field. Then, the North-South softball, baseball, football and basketball games along with the Battle Against Cystic Fibroris gridiron contest gives closure on the field.

The slate though blanks upon conclusion of these all-star games.

So, what is a high school sports fan to do for the next two months before football two-a-days start in August?

The National Basketball Association and National Hockey League wrap up their seasons very soon, and not everyone enjoys Major League Baseball.

Well, fanatics in the Mid-Ohio Valley can turn eyes toward what has the chance to be a terrific 2019-20 prep season.

I am not kidding.

Where four of the MOV’s state champions seized the biggest moment once again in 2018-19, all 11 of the area’s current reigning state champions have the opportunity for more next season. Great coaching, big-time returning talent, and school support surround each of these groups.

One unique chance awaits the Parkersburg High School’s girls’ basketball and swimming teams next Feburary and March. Each group capturing a third straight state title marks the first time in school history two teams from different sports simultaneously three-peated.

And I wouldn’t put it past these young ladies either.

PHS girls’ hoops players were prepared for history before they even received the championship trophy this past March in the Charleston Civic Center. Reinforcments arrive too for a team losing the current Mary Ostrowski Award winner, Shay-Lee Kirby.

Head coach Scott Cozzens sounds confident in his team as he should be given the winning culture erected around the program the last four years.

“Our older girls have done an excellent job of setting the tone for the younger kids in terms of how things are going to be done. We have one of the most challenging schedules that we can put together hoping it will prepare us for the end of the season. Everyone is excited and ready to face this challenge head on,” said Cozzens.

Facing new challenges head on also falls to the responsibility of the new Big Reds’ swimming coach. Terry Nisewarner called it a career this past season after five successful years at the helm. Two state championship and numerous runner up efforts providing a solid legacy for his efforts.

A potential replacement will be presented to the Wood County Board of Education Tuesday night at the weekly meeting. Whoever takes over the job inherits a positive situation. NCAA Division I caliber swimmers Grace Cox and Jaden Welsh alongside plenty of talented relay swimmers provide experienced, championship veterans for whoever assumes the leadership mantle.

Welsh and Cox already competed in the short course national championships this past March with further preparation on the horizon.

Of course, no conversation about winter sports completes until you mention the Parkersburg South Patriots’ wrestlers and their hunt for a sixth straight state title. Shaun Smith’s crew must replace more than usual, but he and his staff develop talent with remarkable haste.

One of the Patriot grapplers joins a Doddridge County Bulldog as a winner of one of the individual awards in the state eyeing rare repeats as well.

Braxton Amos, the Robert Dutton Award winner (best wrestler in the state), and Hunter America, the Curt Warner Award winner (best running back in the state) already have shown improvements in the weight room and in the national spotlight.

Amos’ busy summer slate features top wrestlers from around the world, while America is regularly cleaning over 500 pounds in summer workouts. Strength only adding to his ability to bowl over opposing defensive backs and linebacker once he gets to the edge The Bulldog’s speed boosts greatly too thanks to the new turf field Doddridge move onto in a few months.

America’s speed could increase the Bulldogs’ track and field teams chances of repeating too, if he joins the squad. Receiving any boost could prove the deciding factor for DC head coach Bobby Burnside in an effort for the progam’s seventh title in ten seasons.

“The Mid-Ohio Valley has been loaded with talent in track and field and there is a rich history in several area schools that will keep their programs battling for our states top sports in the years to come,” said Burnside.

Rich provides a solid descriptive basis for the local talent in competiton for the Mary O Award. Kirby played alongside two 2019-20 candidates in Madi Mace and Bre Wilson, both fully healthy after suffering injuries last season. Each young lady showed off improvements in her game last season and will have a final summer of ball with the West Virginia Thunder to draw on.

Parkersburg Catholic’s Madeline Huffman and Aaliyah Brunny form the leadership core of Marty Vierheller’s team, one year wiser as well.

Vierheller, who knew Mary O, sees a lot of Ostrowski in both players.

“Honestly, what makes me the most proud of Madeline and Aaliyah is the fact that both of them emulate Mary’s example of humilty and team basketball first,” said Vierheller. “Each wants her team to be successful, and each will do whatever is necessary to make that happen. Neither cares about individual accolades, and there is never a moment of jealously between them.”

All these happenings or hopeful happenings provide just the tip of the iceburg for the area. Williamstown girls’ cross country and Ripley girls’ track and field go for three-peats of their own. Then there are those surprises no one predicted that come along every season.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.


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