A-K Valley athletes honored at Positive Athlete Awards

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 | 4:46 PM

When Gregory Guzzo was 13, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, and open-heart surgery was needed to correct the issue.

The recent Valley graduate was given a renewed opportunity at life, and he didn’t want to waste it.

Guzzo was told he couldn’t take part in contact sports, which included his love of competitive wrestling.

But he fueled his athletic focus as a member of the Vikings boys soccer, swimming and track and field teams, and he served as a team captain.

Away from the field of battle, he championed causes that helped others dealing with congenital heart defects. He began an awareness foundation which earned recognition from the state senate and the governor, raised money for Children’s Hospital and has participated in various heart walks both locally and throughout the region.

“I love to show the passion for these kids,” said Guzzo, who plans to study secondary education at Penn State New Kensington.

Guzzo’s determination to live life to the fullest in and out of sports and his impact on others gained the recognition of the Positive Athlete Pittsburgh program and former Pittsburgh Steelers player Hines Ward.

He, along with 31 other student-athletes representing boys and girls high school sports throughout western Pennsylvania, including three others from the Alle-Kiski Valley, were honored Monday with scholarships at the eighth annual Positive High School Athlete Awards at the Sen. John Heinz History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

Guzzo, representing the boys multi-sport athlete category, joined Fox Chapel’s Brent Brewster (boys swimming), Kiski Area’s Kierra Shreffler (girls multi-sport — cross country and track and field) and Plum’s Isabella Stoll (cheerleading) as honorees. More than $16,000 in scholarships were presented to the award winners.

Positive Athlete Pittsburgh officials said they received more than 1,000 nominations from coaches, principals, athletic directors, teachers and parents representing 150 high schools in the region.

In addition to accomplishments in competition, the nominated Positive Athletes were to show characteristics such as an optimistic attitude, teammate encouragement, the ability to admit imperfections, giving 100 percent in all occasions and putting the team over personal goals. Those selected also showed their energy for excellence in the classroom and dedicated service to their community.

Brewster, a junior at Fox Chapel, was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and battled through three surgeries and months of chemotherapy. Through it all, he did what he could to be at swim practices, and he attended meets, cheered on teammates and provided inspiration wherever he could.

He maintained a positive attitude, worked to regain his strength and conditioning and returned to swim in every meet for the 2018-19 season.

“My older brother Brandon, when I was diagnosed, he was the (swim team) captain, and he really motivated the team,” Brewster said. “He was a really great guy. He cheered me on and inspired me to swim as fast as I did and try as hard as I did.”

In addition to the scholarships awarded to the athletes in each of the numerous sports, a select number also received other scholarships.

Fox Chapel senior Kate Carnevale, who played basketball before transitioning into track and field sprinting, battled back from knee, foot and leg injuries to produce a record-breaking high school athletic career.

She was presented one of two Comeback Player Awards with a $1,000 scholarship in honor of her ability to overcome those challenges and make a positive impact on her team and teammates.

Guzzo also was awarded the Jeff Boynton Memorial Scholarship for his team leadership as the late Plum football standout did during his high school days. Guzzo received a $2,200 scholarship, reflective of Boynton’s No. 22 jersey.

“I circle this date on my calendar every year because I get a chance to meet kids who inspire me to be a better person,” Ward said. “These kids are approaching life the right way with a positive attitude. They are involved in charitable causes, have already learned the meaning of giving back at an early age, and many have overcome difficult circumstances and remained positive.”

Award winners for each sport:

Football: Andrew Engel, Canon-McMillan

Girls volleyball: Julia Fiedor, Thomas Jefferson

Boys volleyball: Nick Bridges, North Allegheny

Softball: Elizabeth Ohorodnyk, Beaver Falls

Boys cross country: Darion Gregory, Smethport Area

Girls cross country: Elizabeth Simms, Butler

Cheerleading: Isabella Stoll, Plum

Boys basketball: Leonard Robinson III, Clairton

Girls basketball: Kaitlyn Lyons, Central Valley

Wrestling: Matthew Ferraro, North Catholic

Boys swimming: Brent Brewster, Fox Chapel

Girls swimming: Aria Eppinger, Winchester Thurston

Gymnastics: Hannah Schepner, Hampton

Boys soccer: Connor Anderson, Pine-Richland

Girls soccer: Julia Chakos, Trinity

Boys lacrosse: Daniel Kovalan, Mt. Lebanon

Girls lacrosse: Samantha Louis, South Fayette

Boys tennis: Khalil Frazier, Blackhawk

Girls tennis: Ashley Pesarsick, Norwin

Boys track: Hunter Boyd, Mars

Girls track: Mia Anthony, Rochester

Boys golf: Gregory Hensh, Laurel Highlands

Girls golf: Lexi Tofanelli, Seneca Valley

Baseball: Dominic Giallonardo, Mt. Pleasant

Field hockey: Alena Lateef, The Ellis School

Ice hockey: Bailey Julian, Hempfield

Boys multi-sport: Gregory Guzzo, Valley

Girls nulti-sport: Kierra Shreffler, Kiski Area

Rowing: Kyle Pollock, Upper St. Clair

Dance: Madalyn Gorgacz, Union

Boys coach: Darryl Wiley, Nazareth Prep

Girls coach: Jane Bock, Brownsville

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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