Trib HSSN looks back at the top high school sports stories of the 2019-20 school year

Monday, June 29, 2020 | 4:34 PM


West Greene running back Ben Jackson became the first WPIAL football player to rush for 3,000 yards in a season. The senior finished with 3,076 yards on 203 carries and also scored 50 touchdowns.


Mt. Lebanon senior Patrick Anderson defended his PIAA Class AAA cross country title, becoming the first runner from the WPIAL to repeat in the largest classification since North Allegheny’s Jerry Richey in 1965-66. Anderson is a North Carolina recruit.


The North Allegheny girls volleyball team defeated Bishop Shanahan, 3-2, in the PIAA Class AAAA championship and celebrated its third consecutive state title. It was redemption for NA, which was stunned in the WPIAL finals two weeks earlier by Canon-McMillan.


Mars senior Taylor Hamlett scored the only goal in the Class AAA girls soccer final to defeat Villa Joseph Marie, 1-0, and keep the Planets undefeated. Mars finished the season 22-0-1. Hamlett had 43 goals.


The Thomas Jefferson football team capped its dominant 16-0 season with a 46-7 victory over Dallas in the PIAA Class 4A championship in Hershey. A few weeks earlier, the Jaguars earned coach Bill Cherpak his eighth WPIAL title. That tied Cherpak with Bob Palko for the most in WPIAL history.


The WPIAL remembered former executive secretary Charles “Ace” Heberling, who died at 94. The WPIAL’s top administrator from 1976-97, Heberling is credited with making the WPIAL the league it is today. Among his changes, he created a centralized system for scheduling and made the football finals a four-game event.


WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley announced his retirement after 14 years. The WPIAL board voted to hire Amy Scheuneman as his replacement effective July 1. His tenure will be remembered for efforts to maintain WPIAL traditions while under pressure to conform to the PIAA.


Talented freshman Rodney Gallagher took the boys basketball playoffs by storm and led Laurel Highlands to a WPIAL title — the team’s first since 1968. The Mustangs defeated two-time champion Mars, 52-51, in the Class 5A finals when Gallagher made two free throws with 4.8 seconds left.


Gateway swimmer Olivia Livingston claimed her eighth individual gold medal by winning the 100-yard freestyle at the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships, tying 1984 Penn Hills grad Melanie Buddemyer for the most in district history. It is a mark that can‘t be broken. Swimmers can compete in only two individual events at the championship meet each year.


Butler won its first WPIAL boys basketball title since 1991 behind senior point guard Ethan Morton, a Purdue recruit. The Golden Tornado’s dramatic postseason run included late comeback wins in the WPIAL quarterfinals and semifinals.


Canon-McMillan senior Gerrit Nijenhuis became a two-time state wrestling champion and finished his career with the most wins in WPIAL history. The Purdue recruit finished with 181 career victories after winning the 182-pound Class AAA final in Hershey. In all, the WPIAL had six wrestlers win state titles in Class AAA.


The Chartiers Valley girls basketball team broke a 31-year-old WPIAL record by winning 57 consecutive games — an active streak that carries into next season. The previous best was 56, set by North Catholic in 1987-89. The Colts broke the record with a PIAA second-round win over Hollidaysburg.


Upper St. Clair junior Josh Matheny, a world-class swimmer, won the PIAA Class AAA title in the 100-meter breaststroke for the third year in a row. Matheny won international gold in the event earlier in the year at the FINA World Juniors. He committed to Indiana in October.


High school sports were halted statewide in response to the covid-19 pandemic, leaving the PIAA basketball tournaments and swimming championships forever unfinished. A few weeks later, when Gov. Tom Wolf closed schools for the rest of the academic year, the PIAA was forced to cancel all spring sports.


West Allegheny outfielder Austin Hendrick became only the sixth WPIAL baseball player selected in the first round of the MLB Draft directly out of high school. The Cincinnati Reds drafted Hendrick with the 12th overall pick. It was a moment to finally celebrate after seeing his senior season canceled by covid-19.

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

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