WPIAL athletes across all sports honored for positive impact on community

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Tuesday, June 14, 2022 | 7:23 PM


Kiski Area athletic director John Peterman knows his school’s student-athletes are energetic competitors on the field and make a difference off the field, both in the classroom and the community.

He wasn’t surprised when 21 athletes were nominated in several sports for this year’s Western Pennsylvania Positive Athlete Awards.

The collective number of nominations and the impact of their stories led the selection committee to present Kiski Area with this year’s Most Positive School honor.

“The coaches took their time in nominating their athletes, and that is a tribute to them and how much their athletes mean to them, both in and out of competition,” Peterman said.

“It also is a tribute to our athletes who are such strong and positive role models. They do a great job of representing themselves, their family, their teams and their school, both in and out of season, not only in the classroom but in the playing venue of their choice.”

A total of 32 Most Positive Awards were presented.

The list of winners was released on the Positive Athlete Western PA Twitter and Facebook pages.

Other winners from the Alle-Kiski Valley and Westmoreland County include Freeport senior Jenna Selker (softball), Plum assistant cheer coach Nicole Verrengia (girls coach), Yough senior Tristan Waldier (football), Norwin senior Nickolas Harris (boys lacrosse) and Mt. Pleasant senior Laney Hunker (girls swimming and diving).

“We had close to a thousand nominations from coaches and parents,” Positive Athlete president and CEO Scott Pederson said. “People nominate these kids for a variety of reasons, as they know they have a cool or meaningful story to tell. Maybe a coach has worked with a kid for three or four years that might not be as well known, but they are really involved and has that positive attitude and is full of energy.

“We love to find out even more about a nominee than what is originally sent to us, and so we will sometimes reach out. The quality of nominations we get from the Pittsburgh region just blow us away every year.”

Freeport softball coach Sam Ross said Selker was a positive and hard worker for her team and teammates after overcoming a pair of significant injuries to her ankle and upper leg prior to her joining the Yellowjackets varsity.

“They were unsure whether or not she was going to play softball again,” Ross said. “She came out her freshman year, and through the years, she became a really good player and contributor for us. She never got the big headlines, but she always had a really good attitude and always worked hard.”

The award for Selker marked the fourth time in the decade of the Positive Athlete that a Freeport softball player was an award recipient. Others were Maya Borghol (2021), Tori Radvan (2020) and Alexis Roenigk (2014).

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. Pederson said he wants to return to an in-person ceremony next year, hopefully back at the History Center.

For the past several years, Positive Athlete award winners have been celebrated with video recognition highlighting their achievements, and Pederson said that will continue this year at positiveathlete.org.

“On the night of the (in-person) ceremonies, it’s a great presentation, but it’s kind of confined to the families who are there,” Pederson said. “But these videos, we’ve found out, have been shared so often, and it helps share the athletes’ stories to so many other friends and family members. It’s a special thing to be able to do both in-person recognition and the videos.”

Other Positive Athlete Western PA award winners were:

Boys alternative: Garett Mann, Central Catholic

Girls alternative: Marley Kriess, Butler

Boys basketball: Dolan Waldo, Bethel Park

Girls basketball: Jazmine Dunn, Woodland Hills

Baseball: Parker Brown, West Allegheny

Cheerleading: Bethany Matlos, South Allegheny

Boys cross country: Harrison Miller, North Hills

Girls cross country: Jenna Gregory, Smethport

Boys golf: Dylan Fitzgerald, North Allegheny

Girls golf: Ellise Sebolt, North East

Field hockey: Sydney Birchard, Shady Side Academy

Hockey: Noah Pilarski, Hampton

Girls lacrosse: Delaney Kern, Peters Township

Boys multi-sport: Benjamin Diamond, Laurel Highlands

Girls multi-sport: Bella Baumgardner, Somerset

Boys soccer: Dietrich Zeisloft, Gateway

Girls soccer: Renae Mohrbacher, Freedom

Boys swimming and diving: Connor Frank, Mt. Lebanon

Boys tennis: William O’Bryan, Canon-McMillan

Girls tennis: Isabel Rubino, Beaver

Boys track and field: Mwango Kasuba, Baldwin

Girls track and field: Maddy Berger, Seneca Valley

Boys volleyball: Ian Lecker, Bishop Canevin

Girls volleyball: Makayla Faletto, Fort Cherry

Wrestling: Vitali Daniels, Bentworth

Boys coach: Rodney Stubbs, Penn Hills

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, the UPMC Male and Female Comeback Players of the Year and the Jeff Boynton Memorial Scholarship, Pederson said, are being finalized and will be announced within the next week or two.

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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