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ALBRIGHT: Williamstown’s incredible sports year speaks to more than just the talent of its athletes

Those in the know were well aware of Williamstown High athletics’ high hopes for 2021.

But that?

It’s one thing to talk about winning four state championships. Actually, going out and getting it done is something else entirely.

Achieving that kind of success requires an immense amount of talent, patience and dedication to hard work. Every day. Every hour. Every minute.

Thankfully for the community, it became quite clear the Yellowjacket teams possessed all of the right stuff in bunches at the right time.

Heck, Ella Hesson, Brianna Winsett and the girls’ cross country team made things look easy.

Gavin and Austin Bosgraf caused devestation on the Class AA/A No. 1 doubles scene similarly to the way the rest of the boys’ tennis team blew through everyone for a state title.

Scott Sauro and the basketball team pulled off one of the gutsiest moves in the state by playing zone against a Poca team that hadn’t seen it all year.

If Isaac McKneely and the Dots came into the game with an answer to the defense, then Sauro and company were up a certain creek without a paddle. Obviously, everything worked out in the end.

And let’s not forget how the Yellowjacket girls’ track and field team quickly took control of the Class A state tournament. You would have sworn sprinters Ella McMullen or Cameryn Irving were under assignment from head coach Zach Hall, it happened that fast.

Then there were the efforts from the girls basketball team, the baseball team, the football team and the girls tennis’ team. All of them also advanced to state tournament play as well.

And while it is quite fair in the immense amount of credit heaped on the kids because they, after all, went out and made everything happen .. it doesn’t end there. Not at all.

What just transpired easily eclipsed anyone’s wildest expectations. And it is partially thanks to another few little secrets. Maybe not so little now.

But, the culture built up around the school between the teams and between the school and the community played a huge role in helping everyone keep the good times rolling.

“I think the first thing is the athletic foundation has always been really solid. It takes a lot of different people to make an athletic program successful as a whole,” Sauro said.

This is where athletic director Jeff Givens, and assistant principals Jeff Mennillo and Jason Ward come in. All three of them understand the importance of school spirit and pride and making sure the kids have plenty of opportunities to succeed.

For example, the girls’ cross country team always brings out enough great runners to fill the team.

But “sometimes you can have misdirected talent. And keeping everyone on the same page is crucial. As long as everyone knows what the same goal is from the No. 1 runner to the No. 7 runner than that is what you have to try to harness,” Williamstown girls track and field coach Larry Cassady said.

And if someone like Cassidy, who’s always done a great job of motivating the talent he is given, isn’t the leader of the program, then you could have a bad time. And yet, all of that worry is erased away because administrators understand the expectations.

Then, you have the immense amount of support and motivation for the teams between themselves. People on the boys basketball team are well informed on the accomplishments of the girls’ cross country team and it is like that all over the school.

“I think when one team sees another team do well that inspires them and they want the accolades the winning team has. They want that fire truck ride,” Cassady said.

Exactly.

There are very few things better in a small town then being escorted home after winning a state championships. “It is a huge deal to be standing on the road when the fire truck rolls by or be in the bus. It is one of the best feelings. Our community comes out on their porches at 10 or 11 at night just to be a part of that.”

Still, the community does more than just praising everyone during the best of times. Everything is celebrated and the fans show their appreciation whenever they can.

“It is overwhelming. When you take the kids on a medium run and you are running down the neighborhood and the people clap because of an article they see in the paper or toot their horn. The girls always tell me I am one of the most well-known people in the area. No, I am not. The kids are the most well known people but they are so humble they don’t realize the effect they have on the community.”

In addition, “you wouldn’t believe the the excitement going through everyone with the boys basketball team. That was the chatter. The kids and the community knew the boys had missed an opportunity,” Cassady said.

Of course, all of this is great … but if the expectations aren’t taught to the kids at an early age, than it can be harder to work toward the ultimate goal as soon as possible. Well …

“Families in our town hold their kids accountable and do things coaches ask to help their kids be successful,” Sauro said. “Don’t get me wrong, every school has parent problems but the huge parent involvement aspect at a small school is pretty off the charts and it makes Williamstown a great place to coach.”

“You wonder what is in the water. It is exciting,” Cassady said. “I am in awe. I really am. Man it just feels good to be a part of all of that. Whenever you have a Williamstown hat on and go into the grocery store or whatever that says something. It says no matter what you are supporting the kids.”

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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