Norwin’s Kurtis Phipps, Hempfield’s Olivia Persin earn top honors at Driscoll awards

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 | 9:35 PM

After a delay of more than 2½ months, the winners of the Excellence Award were revealed Wednesday at the 64th annual Westmoreland County Scholar-Athlete banquet hosted by Judge John J. Driscoll.

Hempfield’s Olivia Persin and Norwin’s Kurtis Phipps were surprised. Maybe even shocked.

Persin, a three-sport standout, and Phipps, who became the school’s first PIAA wrestling champion, sounded humbled when they heard their names.

They were voted as the winners by the 18 athletic directors from the high schools in the county. The committee looks at the academic and athletic achievements of each nominee and selects 12 finalists and two winners.

The other finalists were Mt. Pleasant’s Heather Gardner and Jacob Johnson; Kiski Area’s Jack Blumer; Greensburg Central Catholic’s Nate Ward; Penn-Trafford’s Gabe Dunlap and Corina Paszek; Hempfield’s Dillon Ferretti; Latrobe’s Rachel Harter; Ligonier Valley’s Jane Garver; and Southmoreland’s Riley Comforti.

“It was just an honor being named for my accomplishments,” Persin said. “I was not expecting this.

“I don’t try to put myself higher than what I actually am. So seeing all the other candidates up for this award, it was a big shock to me.”

Phipps said he was equally shocked upon hearing his name.

“It’s pretty cool to be named. I didn’t expect to be a finalist, honestly,” he said. “It was awesome. A lot of people respect wrestling and to even see how hard it is to be a one-sport athlete. Going through the list of candidates and their credentials, there were three-sport and four-sport athletes.

“I was wondering how are kids able to do that. I was honored to be the one this year.”

Because of the covid-19 pandemic, the banquet was postponed from the original date of April 28. There were 11 scholar-athletes who could not attend.

Hempfield track and field coach Ron Colland won the John and Michael Ferrante Memorial Award, given to a person who promotes high school athletics.

Here are this year’s nominees:

Belle Vernon: Hannah Seitzinger (track) and Mitchell Pohlot (football, basketball).

Burrell: Megan Malits (soccer/track) and Ricky Feroce (football, wrestling, rugby).

Derry: Kamryn Kelly (basketball, softball, volleyball) and Justin Huss (football, basketball, track).

Franklin Regional: Jo-Michelle Huczko (track) and Connor Hudson (soccer).

Latrobe: Rachel Harter (cross country, track) and Colten McCutcheon (golf, hockey).

Greensburg Central Catholic: Samantha Nemeth (basketball, track) and Nathan Ward (soccer, basketball, football, track)

Greensburg Salem: Shaleena Garner (basketball, track, volleyball) and Jalen Page (football, basketball, track).

Hempfield: Olivia Persin (volleyball, basketball, softball) and Dillon Ferretti (football, wrestling, track).

Jeannette: Faith Johnston (softball) and Justin Cramer (football, wrestling).

Kiski Area: Sidney Palla (soccer) and Jack Blumer (wrestling).

Ligonier Valley: Jane Garver (softball) and Michael Petrof (football, baseball).

Monessen: Milana Sacco (track, soccer) and Cameron Frolo (soccer, baseball).

Mt. Pleasant: Heather Gardner (swimming) and Jacob Johnson (football, basketball).

Norwin: Juliana Crosby (golf) and Kurtis Phipps (wrestling).

Penn-Trafford: Corina Paszek (swimming) and Gabe Dunlap (football).

Southmoreland: Sarah Pisula (volleyball, basketball) and Riley Comforti (football, basketball, track).

Valley: Madison Gatto (tennis, softball) and Tyler Walmsley (soccer).

Yough: Sara Krofcheck (soccer) and Steven Manon (golf, baseball).

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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