2015 Positive Athlete Awards

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 | 3:15 PM

2015 Positive Athlete Awards

On Wednesday, May 13th,  27 Western PA High School students were recognized at the John Heinz History Center by Hines Ward as “Positive Athletes” .  These athletes were nominated by coaches, teachers, administrators, parents, and friends for their ability to meet the following criteria in their day-to day lives as athletes, students and members of their communities.

1. Maintaining an Optimistic Attitude—through success and adversity
2. Encouraging their Teammates
3. Being a Servant Leader—leading by setting an example
4. Having a Heart for Others
5. Admitting  Imperfections—This is Positive Athlete…not Perfect Athlete
6. Always Giving 100%
7. Putting Team First

MSA Sports broadcasters played an integral part in this year’s awards presentation, with Lanny Frattare serving as Master of Ceremonies, and Bob Orkwis and Paul Paterra assisting with background commentary on each of the award recipients.

Each athlete was awarded with a $500 scholarship from the Jeff Boynton Foundation, with additional scholarships being awarded, as noted next to the athlete’s names in the list below.

To view the archived broadcast of this year’s awards ceremony, CLICK HERE.


2015 Award Winners:

*Biographies below provided by Celebrate Positive, LLC

Boys Tennis – Patrick O’Connor – Seneca Valley High School 

Patrick O’Connor is a senior and the top player on his team the past two years.  He consistently gives 100% effort in every match and practice, has integrity by the bushels, and lives out his beliefs and pursues excellence in every area of life. Not only is Patrick exceptional on the court, he is a National Honor Society member who carries a 4.57 GPA in the classroom, ranking in the top 10% of students. He is also musically talented, and is a captain in the Seneca Valley Marching Band, and was selected for both Honors Band and Honors Jazz Band. He uses his leadership gifts in his church youth group and volunteers in local athletic associations. 

Girls Golf – Courtney Wahlstrom – Seneca Valley High School
Courtney is a junior and has been a positive leader on her Girls Golf team and helps guide the freshman with golf rules, course, and playing knowledge through practices and matches. She is an accomplished golfer, leading the team in scoring and qualifying to play in WPIAL finals. Courtney did this while juggling practices and matches with her commitment to both marching and jazz bands. Add to that, an early-day involvement with a youth faith group and maintaining a 4.5 GPA, and you have one very busy young lady. She is also involved in National Honors Society, Science Honors Society, and District 5 Honors Band. And to top it off, she’s the church organist and a youth church leader.

Boys Coach – Joe Everhart – Uniontown Area High School

Coach Joe Everhart of Uniontown High School has been coaching Track & Field and Cross Country for the past 25 years. This retired elementary school teacher is an outstanding coach as well as an amazing role model.  During his 25 years as a coach, his success is renowned, including having the last three WPIAL Champions.  Coach Everhart’s teams always have the highest GPA in the school, and many of his athletes have gone on to college to continue participating in the sport. He teaches his athletes more than just sports…he has them volunteer one day a year at the Blind Association, and created a bible club for all student- athletes. He even gives his check to a junior high coach who is not paid by the district.

Girls Coach – Jen McCrady – Fox Chapel Area High School

Several times during the field hockey season, and then again during girls’ lacrosse, you’ll find 30 to 40 players at Coach McCrady’s house for a home cooked dinner. She is open to her players calling her at home at all hours of the day and night to talk about anything that’s on their minds. Many of her players consider her their second mom, which is a tribute to her big heart and enthusiasm. It is these kinds of actions, her energy, sunny approach to life, and capacity to give 100% in all circumstances that make her such a positive role model, especially at a time when teenage girls are navigating the world and learning about choices, consequences and accountability. In addition to her coaching duties, Coach McCrady is the mother of two children, has gone on mission trips to the Dominican Republic, and serves on the board of Gilda’s Club of Western PA. She fought her own battle with cancer when she was a young mother, but her indelible spirit helped her to rise above her illness and become the great coach and terrific woman she is today.

Alternative Sports (Rodeo) – Jessica Johnson – Connellsville Senior High ($2,200 Jeff Boynton Memorial Scholarship Winner)

Jessica had to overcome some obstacles in life when an accident occurred in her barn and she had to have her finger amputated. At 13-years old, she had to learn new ways to compete in Rodeo including having a plastic cover made to protect her hand and finger, as well as working with her equestrian coach to try new bits because her strength was minimized due to the injury.  Fast forwarding to 2015, with her amazing positive attitude, Jessica was able to place at the International Barrel Racer Association and at the All American Quarter Horse Congress. These goals have only occurred due to hard work, a positive attitude, and a determination not to allow her circumstances to knock her down.

Alternative Sports – Dylan Porter – Thomas Jefferson High School

Dylan Porter is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School and has excelled on the lanes including a 300 game and an 802 series. He is captain of his team which qualified for state, and also qualified as an individual. What makes this all remarkable is that Dylan was diagnosed with a seizure disorder and ADHD. He was not able to participate in other sports because of this, but Dylan has found a home on the bowling team for the last 4 years. Dylan is a 4.0 GPA student who received the Student Recognition Award for being #1 in his class. He is also on the student council and founded a debate club.

Baseball – Riley Karn – Fort Cherry High School

Riley Karn plays baseball while continuing to go through treatments for leukemia. Even though Riley was not a starter last year, he has not given up and continues to work hard to return to the level of play he was at before being given this shocking setback. While working hard to build his strength, even though the treatments wear him down, Riley is an honor student and maintains a high grade point average. He was also accepted into the Fort Cherry Chapter of the National Honor Society and elected Junior Class President. Additionally Riley formed a team for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Light The Night Walk” and raised over $3,300, of which 90% was raised by Riley himself.

Softball – Moriah McGuire –McGuffey High School

Moriah McGuire is a junior at McGuffey High School, and our 2015 Most Positive Girls Softball athlete.  Moriah is dedicated to excellence in everything she does. Whether is it in the classroom where she has a 4.0 GPA and is ranked #1 in her class of 151 students, or on the softball field where she is one of the top players in the state and was selected to play in the International Cup in the Netherlands last January.  Or in the community where she participates in “Aluminum for Service Dogs”, Operation Smile, Variety’s “My Bike” Program, Paws for Mobility, Multiple Sclerosis, and the Make a Wish Foundation. For Moriah, it’s all about making positive contributions to your team, school and community. And for someone so talented, Moriah’s humility is the first thing people will tell you about her

Boys Basketball – Ryan Harkleroad – Upper St. Clair High School
Last year, Ryan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As a result, he endured monthly chemotherapy treatments during June, July, and August. Unfortunately, however, the chemotherapy failed to completely cure the cancer. So for the first three weeks of September, Ryan had to endure daily radiation treatments.  In spite of his circumstances, Ryan’s determination and positive attitude got him back on the football field and basketball court, all while maintaining a 3.4 GPA.

Girls Basketball – Ashley Holt – Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School

Ashley Holt is a sophomore who was diagnosed with Crohns and Colitis at the end of 2013 which made her a very sick young lady. She was very active on the high school basketball team when she began to lose lots of weight, but it NEVER got her down. As mal-nourished as she became she continued to give her all to her team and did not let it ruin her love of the game. When they finally hospitalized her because of the massive weight loss, her only concern was not getting better, but getting back on that court with her team. Ashley will have treatments every 8 weeks for the rest of her life, but it will not define or defeat her.

Boys Cross Country – James Knoerdel – South Side High School

Running Cross County is difficult enough, but even more so when you have severe asthma. James Knoerdel is a senior at South Side Area High School and has been running Boys Cross Country with this condition throughout middle and high school.  When the conditions cause his breathing problems, this captain of the team has to control his running realizing that he will probably end up the team’s 4th or 5th runner.  But James has always remained positive while dealing with his asthma, even encouraging others with the same condition how to live life to the fullest and enjoy competing. More importantly, Jim befriended an autistic runner helping him relate with others, focusing in practice, ordering meals, making sure the young runner was where he needed to be, and generally making him feel a central part of the team. 

Girls Cross Country – Marisa Deichert – Laurel Highlands High School

Marisa Deichert, a senior Laurel Highlands is a student athlete who is a fantastic example of what a positive athlete is all about. She competes in Girls Cross Country and has developed a work ethic that has been highly contagious to her teammates gaining her the honor of being team captain. She is a straight “A” student ranking 2nd in her class. She volunteers for non-profit organizations such as Phoenix Arts Center, by serving on a planning committee to conduct a local road race, and for Mount Saint Macrina as a tour guide and gardener. Everything Marisa touches turns into something positive.

Football – Gino DePaoli – East Allegheny High School  
Gino DePaoli, a senior at East Allegheny High School was born with an optic nerve disorder and has been diagnosed as legally blind. Despite having no Vision in his right eye, he insisted on playing football starting at age 7. Despite many struggles most athletes never have to encounter, he persevered and earned a starting center position on the varsity team as a freshman. He has gone on to be a 4 year letterman and captain of the team, playing both sides of the ball. He also carries a 3.8 GPA and ranks 10th in his class.

Cheerleading – Toni Koval – Carlynton Senior High School
When Toni was fourteen years old, she was removed from her parents care due to substance abuse and lack of housing. She and her three siblings were separated and placed in foster care.  Feeling alone and scared, Toni decided to use positivity as a way to change her lot in life, and put her mind toward achieving academic and athletic excellence. And boy has she ever. She now holds high academic honors and participated in cheerleading and track. Her school community has rallied around her and supported her continually, and now she makes it a priority to give back. She is a vital and active member of student government and continually looks for ways to serve her school and community.

Boys Golf – Luke Dzikiy – New Brighton High School 

We move on to Boys Golf where those of you who play the game know how difficult it is to concentrate in this sport.  But try to do what Luke Dzikiy, a senior at New Brighton High School, is doing. Luke has suffered for years with a seizure disorder which has held him out of playing some of his favorite sports. Luke has been hospitalized for days and weeks at a time in order for the doctors to help regulate his medications to either prevent seizures from occurring, or minimize their severity.  Luke finally underwent 2 brain surgeries in September 2014 in the hopes of eliminating the seizures. He is a true fighter and has made a remarkable recovery with a positive attitude, and returned back to school one month after the surgery.  He has inspired everyone on his team, and at his school.

Girls Tennis – Name: Olivia Szalanski – Highlands High School
Olivia Szalanski is a Girls Tennis athlete from Highlands High School, and this senior has been a leader, friend and role model for her team. Olivia challenges all of her teammates to become better players and shows an interest in every player, encouraging all teammates to support each other. She is a creative member of the Art Club, Literacy Club and Color Guard of the Marching Band. Olivia is also a member of the STEAMM Academy, which requires a strict schedule to be kept while earning college credits in high school. Olivia is an Engineer Intern at Carnegie Mellon University through the STEAMM program, which will allow her to graduate from High School with college credits.

Ice Hockey – Jimmy Vita – Hampton High School

Jimmy Vita has been dealing with alopecia totalis over the past two years, a condition in which you lose your hair. Jimmy does his best on the ice during practice and games, even while enduring chemo treatments, including shots in his face, to try and get hair to grow back. But Jimmy has an amazing positive attitude and will not allow this setback in life to affect who he is. He has persisted at the sports he loves and shows up to play, regardless of he feels.

Field Hockey – Isabel Siergiej – Penn-Trafford High School ($1,000 Knichel Title IX Scholarship)

Isabel Siergiej, a senior at Penn-Trafford High School is an extraordinary young woman, athlete, musician, and student. She has excelled in all of her endeavors despite experiencing setbacks and difficult circumstances. She’s an elite field hockey athlete on the WPIAL Championship team, and holds the school record for the triple jump. Isabel also participates in marching, symphonic and jazz bands. And in the classroom, she ranks #2 in a class of 355 students, receiving the National Merit Scholar Program Commendation, and being part of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth. She has accomplished all these things despite being diagnosed with Coat’s Disease, a very rare congenital, nonhereditary eye disorder, causing full or partial blindness.

Boys Lacrosse – Carman Palermo – Gateway High School

Carman Palermo, a senior at Gateway High School lives by the “Team First” motto. He started playing Lacrosse late in high school and quickly became a highly regarded player as a junior. Although he could have been a starter on the varsity, Carman let his coaches know that it was alright with him to play on the Junior Varsity team to allow the seniors who had been with the program a lot longer than Carman to play their last season. Coaches love this kind of positive attitude, and this move made a bold statement about who Carman is. Besides participating in Lacrosse, Carman helps out coaching youth football, and participated in the local “Walk for the Cure” charity for Cancer.

Girls Lacrosse – Ava Petrosky – Greater Latrobe High School 
Ava Petrosky, a senior from Greater Latrobe High School, has been a star on both the lacrosse and soccer teams, especially the past 2 years. She has been a positive role model and student-athlete always leading by example on and off the field. Her faith is extremely important to Ava and she was elected by her fellow students as Service Coordinator for Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  In that capacity, Ava organized a food drive at a widely attended wrestling match between Latrobe & Derry high schools back in December.  Her efforts resulted in unprecedented student and community involvement, filling 4 barrels of food and generating funding for Westmoreland County residents just before the holidays.

Boys Swimming – Zachary Remaley – Mt. Pleasant Area High School
Zachary Remaley is a senior at Mt. Pleasant Area High School and a 4 year letterman in soccer, track and swimming. Being a 3 sport athlete is demanding enough, but Zachary also has a 4.66 GPA and is ranked 1st in his class of 154, showing an amazing balance of a true student-athlete.  He has received the Presidents Volunteer Service Award, the Trib Total “Media School Medalist Award” in recognition of academics, athletics and service, and is the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership School Representative. And to top it off, Zachary has helped coordinate the school’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fundraiser the past 4 years raising over $3,000.00 for the charity.

Girls Swimming – Emma Buerger – Mt. Lebanon High School 
Emma’s coach said when he reviewed the Seven Definitions of a Positive Athlete, he immediately thought of this amazing young student athlete.  In addition to her attitude and leadership on the swim team, Emma and another teammate led a swim-a-thon that raised $8,000 for ALS. Outside the pool she has been elected as the Student Council Vice President every year, and has performed over 180 service hours in the past 3 years. Emma has also earned straight A’s throughout high school including several AP classes. She has a staggering 4.9 GPA and ranks in the top 3% of her class.  This young lady also does missions trips, gives free swimming lessons, and teaches at vacation bible school

Boys Track & Field – Joseph “Hunter” Armstrong – Lakeview High School

On June 29th, 2012,  Joseph “Hunter” Armstrong was struck by a vehicle while riding his ATV. “Hunter,  now a senior at Lakeview High School, was life flighted by helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian were he had suffered 5 broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a laceration to his thigh that required surgery to close, and a fracture to the pelvis. Hunter spent one week in the trauma ICU and two weeks in a step down unit. Walking once again was in doubt, and thoughts of his sports career weren’t even being discussed. Except in the positive mind of Hunter Armstrong.  After spending almost 3 months of not doing any physical
activity and losing 50 pounds, Hunter put his mind to getting back to sports.
Not only did he get back to sports, he became the captain of the football team and a record throwing discus performer in track. Hunter was met with a tragedy and could of lost hope, falling into some bad habits. Instead he found strength through a positive attitude.

Girls Track & Field – Nina Tyszkiewicz – South Allegheny High School
On the field, Nina has been South Allegheny Soccer Team¹s leading scorer every season and was named All Section and All WPIAL.  Nina is also a 4.1 GPA student in the gifted program at South Allegheny.  But Nina was chosen for this award for how she handled the loss of her niece Milana who passed away at 6 weeks old from Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Nina became very active in a non-profit charity developed in honor of her niece called “Project Sweat Peas – Milana’s Miracles”. With this charity, Nina helps families with children in the Pittsburgh Neonatal Intensive Care Units. She also assists families that are grieving the loss of their child, helping pack care packages, creating memory boxes, and building holiday gifts.  She’s a blessing to her family, her school and community.

Wrestling – Anthony Palumbo – Pittsburgh Central Catholic ($1,000 UPMC Comeback Player  Award)

On his 16th birthday, while at Wrestling practice, Tony fought through adversity caused by the self-described “birthday gift.” Despite the ACL injury, which also lingered into his junior year, never did Tony waiver from his responsibility as a student athlete. As a student, he maintained a 4.5 GPA, earning him acceptance into the prestigious Davidson College in North Carolina. As a wrestler, and many times being in pain from the knee, Tony trained hard at every practice and spent extra time before or after regular practice because he wanted to make a comeback to help his team.  In a Hollywood ending to his wrestling career, entering the state tournament, Tony was ranked 11th in Pennsylvania. In a matter of 7 days, Tony won 12 wrestling matches to place 5th at the state AAA PIAA tournament.

Gymnastics – Danijela Jergan – North Allegheny High School ($1,000 UPMC Comeback Player  Award)
Danijela Jergan is a senior, and the type of person that looks at adversities square in the eye and embraces them.  More than once in her career at North Allegheny has this young athlete had to come back from a season ending injury. For some athletes, the motivation stops after the second injury. Not with Danijela. The injuries only motivated her to maintain a positive attitude so that she could become the best gymnast she could be. Well, Danijela’s positive attitude was rewarded as she was this year’s WPIAL All-Around Gymnastics Champion. And she was able to realize her lifelong goal of doing gymnastics in college when she was offered a scholarship to Towson University.

Boys Volleyball – Kris Silbaugh – Cambridge Springs High School
Kris Silbaugh, a junior at Cambridge Springs High School was born with only one hand, but that hasn’t kept him from achieving his dreams. He started on the Cambridge Springs football team as a Freshman, having never played football in his life. Even though he has only one hand he has been able to start for Cambridge Spring for three years, and broke the school record for receiving touchdowns. Kris has also lettered in varsity basketball and volleyball. He is a determined young man with a great outlook on life. Kris has been in the foster care program most of his life, and a couple years ago he was taken in by a magnificent Cambridge area family. He is a “never give up” kind of kid, and we’re honored to have him here tonight as our Most Positive Boys Volleyball Athlete.

Girls Volleyball – Maggie McDermott – Kiski Area High School

To say that Maggie McDermott, a senior Girls Volleyball Athlete at Kiski High School “has a heart for others” is a total understatement. Yes, she is a fine volleyball player, but she has a heart for the younger students at her school. She is one of the Link Crew Leaders at Kiski, a new district organization that bridges the gap for incoming freshmen to ease the transition in academics and social settings. Maggie takes it upon herself to do the same for the younger volleyball players as well.  Outside of school she is constantly giving back to the community with efforts such as spokesperson for “Just say no to Drugs”, where she encourages kids to be drug and substance free. As the Key Club Treasurer, Maggie uses whatever free time she has during the day to help with organization, finances and communication with members.

Girls Soccer – Mary Kathryn Bair – Hickory High School ($5,000 Mylan Positive Athlete of the Year)
Mary Kathryn’s mother has been battling cancer for the past few years, and in response to this, MK (as she is called) has taken the lead to organize a yearly event called “Kicking out Cancer.” This event, which coincides with one of the Hickory home soccer games, is designed to bring educational awareness and financial support in the battle against cancer. Along with her parents, she has overseen this entire event for the past three years. It has involved the entire community in a cause that has had a positive impact on a large number of people. Mary Kathryn is also a 4.0 student, and….by the way…an All Region soccer athlete. But MK would rather have you remember her as someone who cares more about others than herself.

Boys Soccer – Jake Trainor – Canon-McMillan High School ($5,000 Mylan Positive Athlete of the Year)

In life, some people just “get it”.  Jake Trainor, a senior at Canon-McMillan High School, ins one of those people. Two years ago, Jake organized the students at Canon-McMillan to support a fellow student diagnosed with a Ewing’s Sarcoma. He ordered T-shirts with the title “Luke Strong” that rallied the student body for a good cause. This lead to the community becoming involved to help the family with the financial burden of medical bills. Jake is the captain of his soccer team, the leader of the school’s spirit organization, and a 3-year letterman in baseball and soccer. And it doesn’t stop there. The last 4 summers Jake has volunteered to serve the elderly, disabled or disadvantaged people in local communities. 

Highmark Positive High School of the Year – South Side High School ($2,500 Grant)

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