Derry, South Park standouts win UPMC Comeback Athlete of the Year awards

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 | 4:51 PM

A pair of determined athletes are the WPIAL’s latest comeback kids.

Multi-sport standout Aidan Bushey of Derry and tennis player Haley Spitznagel of South Park were named recipients of the UPMC Comeback Athlete of the Year awards.

Bushey is a recent graduate who will continue his golf career at Cal U, while Spitznagel will be a sophomore in the fall.

Both have shown resilience after dealing with career-threatening injuries at a young age.

Eight years ago, Bushey suffered a fractured skull and a subdural hematoma when he was hit in the head with a baseball during a youth-level game.

The harrowing injury put his sports future on hold and doctors were unsure if he would be able to play again.

Bushey had five titanium plates and 20 screws placed in his head and endured a long recovery.

He eventually gained clearance and returned to multiple sports, including baseball, golf and basketball, and excelled in all of them.

He made the PIAA Western Regional in golf and was a double-figure scorer in basketball as the Trojans returned to the playoffs.

Spitznagel was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 5 and has dealt with numerous surgeries and setbacks since. She had issues with her sight and her body was not properly fighting infections.

After years of rehab, relearning and refocusing, she made a miraculous return to tennis and will look to play again this fall.

Last season, she teamed with Elyssa Pemu to finish second in the Section 1-AAA doubles tournament and reached the WPIAL doubles tournament.

Bushey and Spitznagel will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

Other award winners also were announced. They are:

• Troy Paronish of Northern Cambria (Mylan Male Positive Athlete of the Year, $5,000 scholarship).

• Grace Beal of Neshannock (Mylan Female Positive Athlete of the Year, $5,000 scholarship).

• Matt Federovich of Norwin (Jeff Boynton Memorial Scholarship, $2,200).

• Tori Radvan of Freeport (Knichel Logistics Title IX Award, $1,000 scholarship).

Normally, UPMC would honor its Positive Athletes Award winners at a ceremony, with award founder and former Pittsburgh Steelers star Hines Ward serving as a presenter. But the covid-19 pandemic forced a cancellation of this year’s event, traditionally held at the Sen. John Heinz History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

Instead, video tributes recognized the award winners via YouTube.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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