A recurring theme at the 24th annual YWCA Westmoreland Sportswomen of the Year Awards banquet Tuesday was the hard work and dedication of all the winners.
This year's winners were recognized not only for being outstanding athletes but also for being outstanding in the classroom.
But it was the never-quit attitude that separated the winners from the rest.
The theme of the banquet came from keynote speaker Michelle Burgher-Duncan, IUP's women's track coach who earned medals for Jamaica in the 2000 and '04 Olympics. An outstanding runner, Burgher-Duncan had to overcome different obstacles to achieve her Olympic dreams.
“There is nothing too impossible,” Burgher-Duncan said. “You have to try it, and don't quit.
“You have to work hard when others aren't working. I hope my story served as an inspiration.”
Her story closely resembled the story of one of the two Committee's Choice Award winners: Hadara Katarski, who recovered from injuries from a fall to run in the 2017 Pittsburgh Marathon, where she finished sixth out of 235 runners in the 35-39 age group and 63rd out of 1,396 runners.
That finish qualified her for the upcoming Boston Marathon, but a hip injury will keep her from competing. Katarski, wife of Seton Hill women's basketball coach Mark, teaches at the school and is a former coach at Pitt-Greensburg, Niagara, Chatham and Dickinson.
She ran at Colorado and Franklin & Marshall.
Also honored from Seton Hill were soccer player Emily LoPresti (Sportswoman of the Year for Excellence in a Team Sport) and the women's soccer team (Sportswomen Team of the Year).
“I was honored to be part of such a great organization,” Katarski said, “and I think it's neat that so many Seton Hill athletes were honored. I teach at the school, and half of my students are on the soccer team and were honored. It's neat for Seton Hill as a school because we have some great student-athletes.”
It also was a big night for Derry seniors. Chelsea Bisi (Sports Teen of the Year for Individual Excellence) and Renee Rectenwald (Sports Teen of the Year for Excellence in a Team Sport) were honored.
Bisi, an all-state softball player who will attend Penn State, is ranked No. 1 in her class with a GPA of 101.74.
“It means the world that Renee and I were honored from a relatively small school,” Bisi said. “It's all about time management. I keep an agenda, and I have a schedule. I stick to the schedule.”
Rectenwald excelled in volleyball and basketball. She, too, is outstanding in the classroom.
She called the honor and night special.
“A lot of the girls at our school work really hard at what they want,” Rectenwald said. “I wouldn't be surprised to see more girls honored here.”
The other individuals honored Tuesday were: New Kensington fitness entrepreneur Marci Wiggins (Committee's Choice Award), gymnast Halie Walmsley (Sports Girls of the Year for Individual Excellence), basketball player/cheerleader Jayme Flock (Sports Girl of the Year for Excellence in a Team Sport), W&J soccer player Jordan Toohey (Sportswoman of the Year for Individual Excellence), Special Olympics athlete Paige Thornburg (Sportswoman with Special Needs), Michelle Keenan (Women's Health and Fitness Award) and Penn-Trafford field hockey coach Cindy Dutt (Women's Coach of the Year Award).
The 2017 Hempfield girls softball team was honored as Teen Sports Team of the Year.