Everything from "Where Are They Now" to notes and anecdotes from the high school sports scene.
Over the course of the past six days, four former WPIAL athletes either accomplished a notable feat or were given a big honor on the college level.
It started last Thursday when Syracuse distance runner Margo Malone won the ACC championship in the 10,000-meter run at Tallahassee, Fla. Malone, junior and a graduate of North Hills High School, ran the event in 33 minutes, 33.69 seconds. It was a Mike Long Track record.
Malone is one of the best distance runners in NCAA Division I track and field. Her time earlier this year of 32:29.59 is the sixth-best in the country. She will compete in the NCAA championships June 10-15 in Eugene, Ore.
Then on Sunday, University of Maryland women's basketball player Shatori Walker-Kimbrough got a huge honor when she was named to the U.S. team for the Pan American Games.
Walker-Kimbrough is a Hopewell High School graduate who averaged 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game this past season as a sophomore at Maryland. She was a first-team all-Big Ten Conference selection and an honorable mention All-American. She helped Maryland reach the Final Four for the second consecutive season.
The Pan Am Games start July 8 in Toronto and the U.S. roster includes some of the best women's college players in the country, including Connecticut's Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson. One of Walker-Kimbrough's teammates at Maryland also received a big honor, making another national team. Brionna Jones was selected to the U.S. squad for the World University Games.
Then on Monday, Louisville baseball player Brendan McKay was named ACC Freshman of the Year. He was also a first-team all-ACC selection as a pitcher and a second-team all-ACC utility player. McKay, a graduate of Blackhawk High School, plays either first base or designated hitter when he doesn't pitch.
McKay has turned into a freshman sensation at Louisville. He is 8-2 as a pitcher with a 1.64 ERA. He has struck out 100 in 77 innings and allowed only 37 hits. He is No. 1 in the country in hits allowed per nine innings and his strikeouts-to-walks ratio is ninth.
McKay and Louisville are in the ACC tournament this week.
Then today came another big honor for a former WPIAL baseball player. University of Cincinnati junior Ian Happ was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Happ is the first Cincinnati player to be named a conference player of the year since Josh Harrison was Big East Player of the Year in 2008.
Yes, THAT Josh Harrison of the Pirates. And you want to hear something else tying Happ and the Pirates? Baseball America has a mock draft and projects the Pirates, who pick 19th, to select Happ.
Just about every publication predicts Happ as a first-round draft choice. He finished the regular season leading the conference in average (.366), slugging percentage (.681) and one-base percentage (.490). He had 18 doubles, 45 runs scores, 14 home runs and 43 RBIs.
He also was named one of 30 finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top college player in the country.
Dukes to NCAAs
Three former WPIAL athletes now at Duquesne University qualified for the NCAA track and field championships and are on national lists.
Anna Simone (Mt. Lebanon High School) qualified in the 400 hurdles, Danica Snyder (Butler) in the 3000 steeplechase and Ian Welch (Central Catholic) in the triple jump and long jump. Welch is ranked 32nd in the country in the long jump and 57th in the triple. Simone is 32nd in the steeplechase and Simone 27th in the 400 hurdles.
Dix a "Crusader" for sports
I love hearing stories like this, when a high school kid shows the drive and attitude to "want" to be an athlete. It says here that too many kids and parents use the excuse that it is too hard to play two or more sports in high school these days. Just stop it. Sure it takes a lot, but it can be done. But it's up to the kid to "want" to do it. Many don't. Justin Dix apparently "wants" to be more than a one-sport athlete.
Listen to this one: Dix, a Bishop Canevin pitcher, fired a one-hitter Monday afternoon as the Crusaders beat Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 1-0, in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal game. After the game, he gets in a car with his father, drives to North Hills, hoping to play in a spring basketball league with his Bishop Canevin teammates.
Crazy, huh? Not really. Just an inspired kid apparently.
"I played him only a few minutes in the first half and didn't play him at all in the second half because I knew he had to be tired, and I didn't want to risk anything with him," said Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Trost. "His Dad said after the baseball game Justin begged him to take him to the basketball game. The Dad said he didn't want him to come, but Justin insisted on it.
"He started every game for us this year as a junior. He is a feel-good high school story. Not a major D1 kid who will be on ESPN, but a good kid who does well in school, works really hard and cares about his school and teammates."
Great to hear.
No. 1 seeds for track
The PIAA track and field championships are Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University and 13 athletes from the WPIAL are No. 1 seeds, as well as one relay team. The No. 1 seeds are:
CLASS AAA BOYS - Ori Rinaman, Mars (110 hurdles), Jeff Van Kooten, Central Catholic (1,600), Matt McGoey, North Allegheny (3,200) and Jordan Geist, Knoch (shot put).
CLASS AA BOYS - Dom Perretta, Beaver Falls (800), Tre Tipton, Apollo-Ridge (long jump), Dom Westbay, Shenango (discus), Anthony Millner, New Brighton (triple jump), Aliquippa 400 relay team.
CLASS AAA GIRLS - Madison Wiltrout, Connellsville (javelin) and Madeleine Davison, North Allegheny, 3,200.
CLASS AA GIRLS - Ameriah Walters, Valley, (200) and Marianne Abdalah, Vincentian (3,200).