Plum, 29 student-athletes, 2 coaches honored with Positive Athlete Western Pa. Awards

Thursday, June 6, 2024 | 11:33 AM

Plum athletic director Drew Karpen was not surprised with the number of student-athlete nominations for the Positive Athlete Western Pennsylvania Awards.

A total of 30 from parents, coaches, community members and school administrators were given to Positive Athlete, and that number, in addition to the positive quality of the stories presented, led Positive Athlete selection committee members to award Plum with this year’s Most Positive School recognition.

“This is truly a great honor,” Karpen said.

“These are the awards as a school district and athletic department you really want to strive to win, and I am very thankful that when Positive Athlete reached out to us for nominations, we did our best to push it out there to the coaches. The coaches did a phenomenal job of nominating their student-athletes. We had at least one nomination for every sport we participate in.

“The community also has done a fantastic job of getting involved. It was a full team effort. We were so excited to showcase, in a positive light, what our kids are doing in every aspect of their lives from the classroom to their sport and in their community.”

It is the third year in a row that a school from the Alle-Kiski Valley was honored with the Most Positive School award.

Kiski Area was selected last year and in 2022.

Positive Athlete president and CEO Scott Pederson said when selecting the school award winner, not only is the number of nominations considered but also the quality of those nominations.

“Almost every time we were considering one of the individual awards, a Plum athlete was in the running,” he said.

In addition to Plum’s school award, 29 individual student-athletes and two coaches received Western Pennsylvania awards.

Pederson said all of the award nominees and winners continue to amaze him with their stories of passionate work and determination.

“Every year, we say we can’t possibly beat last year’s nominations and stories, and then this year’s nominations come in,” he said.

“Every one of them is unique, and every one of them gives us so much joy to be able to read and see what the kids are doing in their schools and communities. Every school, all over Western Pennsylvania, these kids are so amazing.”

Pederson said any adult is able to nominate a student-athlete, and that includes parents, grandparents and fans, as well as coaches, teachers and school administrators.

“When an athlete gets nominated by a coach or school official, an email is sent to the parents asking for additional information,” he said.

“That sometimes is where we get our best stories. Coaches and teachers might know the kids from school, and they know what a great kid they are. But in terms of all the things they’ve gone through or are doing, the ones who know that the best are the parents or student themselves. They can help fill in the nomination with some additional meaningful information.”

The Alle-Kiski Valley is home to many of those whose goal it is to make where they are from a better place.

A-K Valley athletes selected and honored were Kiski Area’s Carson Heinle, boys multi-sport; Fox Chapel’s Colin Lazzara, boys alternative sport; Burrell’s Tristan Brothers, football; Highlands’ Tyarah Woody, girls basketball; and Plum’s Tyler Wells, boys tennis.

“For them to be honored in this light means a lot to them and to their schools,” Karpen said. “They are great representations of just what kind of people we have (in the A-K Valley).”

Peterson said Positive Athlete again received more than 1,000 nominations from more than 100 schools for the Western Pennsylvania awards starting last October through last month. He said the review process is a great challenge because the stories are more and more impactful.

Positive Athlete Western Pennsylvania last held an in-person awards ceremony at the Sen. John Heinz History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in June 2019.

For the past several years, Positive Athlete award winners have been celebrated with video recognition highlighting their achievements, and Pederson said that continues this year at as well as on the organization’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

“Everybody loves the videos because they are easy to share and more people see them,” Pederson said.

“We do an awards ceremony here in Atlanta where I live, and everyone loves it. We really want to get back to that for Western Pennsylvania, too. That is our goal. We’re hoping to put an office in Pittsburgh so we could be more on the ground there and make that event happen.”

In addition to the 32 Positive Athlete award winners, several others will receive annual scholarship awards.

The Knichel Logistics Title IX Award for female leadership and the UPMC Male and Female Comeback Players of the Year, Pederson said, are being finalized and will be announced within the next week or two.

The Jeff Boynton Memorial Scholarship Fund again will award scholarship money to a Plum student-athlete, and in addition to that, Pederson said, it is considering an additional scholarship award to a Positive Athlete nominee.

2024 Positive Athlete Western Pa. award winners

Girls Swimming and Diving: Addison Arndt, Thomas Jefferson

Boys Swimming and Diving: Aiden Suzensky, Allderdice

Girls Golf: Antolena Damico, Penn-Trafford

Boys Golf: Brendan Kern, Peters Township

Boys Multi-Sport: Carson Heinle, Kiski Area

Girls Multi-Sport: Whitney Bobish, Connellsville

Boys Coach: Chris Goyke, East Allegheny, Soccer

Girls Coach: Lisa Coffey, Penn Hills, Cheerleading

Boys Alternative Sport: Colin Lazzara, Fox Chapel

Girls Alternative Sport: Marzia Mohammadi, Mt. Lebanon

Boys Basketball: Dontae Campagna, Blackhawk

Girls Basketball: Tyarah Woody, Highlands

Boys Volleyball: Elijah Hickman, Canon-McMillan

Girls Volleyball: Kyra Schmidt, North Allegheny

Boys Lacrosse: Griffin Bartos, Norwin

Girls Lacrosse: Kacy Christensen, Seneca Valley

Boys Cross Country: Izaac Erwin, Southern Huntingdon

Girls Cross Country: Lucy Gyergyo, Eden Christian

Boys Track and Field: Owen Mollenauer, North Hills

Girls Track and Field: Kelsie Skinner, Fort LeBoeuf

Baseball: Levi Ehrhart, Corry

Softball: Paige Lauten, Mars

Ice Hockey: Luke Hinds, Chartiers Valley

Field Hockey: Mikayla Saversky, Pine-Richland

Boys Soccer: Timothy Brannock, Elk County Catholic

Girls Soccer: Morgan Keller, Freedom

Cheer and Gymnastics: Morgan Reese, Mt. Pleasant

Wrestling: Nate Harrison, Fort Cherry

Boys Tennis: Tyler Wells, Plum

Girls Tennis: Sasha Hoffman, Greensburg Central Catholic

Football: Tristan Brothers, Burrell

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at

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