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A great year for champions

It’s been more than two years since area high school athletes — and the fans who follow them — have experienced such a hectic couple of weeks.

The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference has just crowned its final champion of the 2020-21 school year. Boys and girls basketball teams and wrestlers in West Virginia have just completed their state tournaments.

Baseball and softball teams and track athletes in Ohio are beginning tournament play, with the goal being to win a state championship. And, spring sports athletes in West Virginia are continuing regular-regular season play in preparation for post-season action in June.

While area athletes are continuing to compete, it’s appropriate to take a step back and recognize everyone who has won an OVAC title during the past couple of weeks — especially because COVID-19 forced last year’s championship events to be canceled.

That list includes the Oak Glen softball team, which won the Class 4A title on May 1.

Last weekend saw many other champions crowned, including the Weirton Madonna baseball team, which won its third-consecutive Class 1A championship.

Track and field took center stage last weekend, and area athletes turned in outstanding performances. That included the Catholic Central girls team, which claimed the Class 1A-2A title — it marked the 16th overall in the school’s history and the first since 2015. Claiming titles for the Crusaders were junior Clara Symington (who won both hurdle events); junior Rebecca Bolster, who won the 400; as well as the 800- and 1600-meter relay teams.

For Madonna, junior Kristina Lasho won the 800 title, and the 3200-meter relay team finished as champs.

The Oak Glen girls finished second in Class 4A, with junior Sophia Arner taking titles in the 800 and 1600; freshman Kami Ward winning the 400; senior Izzy Barganski winning the low hurdles; and the members of the 3200-meter and 1600-meter relay teams also winning titles.

In Class 5A, Steubenville Big Red freshman Sabria Jones took titles in the long jump and the 100 and 200; its 800-meter relay team claimed a title; and junior Amya Livingston earned the title in the shot put — after setting an OVAC meet record during qualifying. Brooke’s Mara Pendergrast was a champion in the high jump.

On the boys side in Class 1A-2A, Central senior Joe Rohde took titles in the 200 and 400, as did the Crusaders’ 800 and 1600 relay teams — the latter in class-record time. Toronto’s Josh Francher took championships in the shot put and discus.

In Class 3A, Tristan Lawrence of Oak Glen won titles in the 100 and 200; the Oak Glen 400-meter relay team took the title; and Weir High’s Jonathon Howard was first in the shot put.

And, in Class 5A, Big Red freshman Savior Faulks took the title in the intermediate hurdles.

Preparing to compete at a championship level is never easy. That work was made even harder this year, when you throw all of the concerns and changes that have been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic on top of already-stringent training programs.

We say congratulations, then, to all who won titles this year — and wish everyone well as they prepare for state tournament competition.

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