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Phenomenal late run gives Dons state crown

June 4, 2012
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor (mmathison@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

What an incredible run by the Madonna baseball team.

The Blue Dons captured their second West Virginia Class A state championship in three years Sunday at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston with a 5-4 victory over East Hardy in eight innings.

The win proves a lot of things, not the least of which what can happen when a group of athletes play as a team and accept their roles.

Every member of a team has a role and they are all different.

Not everyone can be Magic or Bird or Michael or Kobe or LeBron or Mr. Clutch.

Role players are really important in every team.

Just ask the Lakers how important Michael Cooper and Norm Nixon were in the glory days.

The same goes with Steve Kerr or John Paxson with the Bulls.

Changes were made in the Madonna baseball lineup and, after some adjustment, the Blue Dons figured it out and won their last 10 games in a row and 12 of the last 13.

Champs.

That doesn't happen if guys pout and whine and hang their heads.

Four sophomores (Will Bowser, Ross Comis, Luca Fuscardo and Nick Ossman) and a freshman (Kaleb Baire) started in Saturday's semifinal win over Charleston Catholic and Sunday's title contest.

That left five seniors (Nick Battista, Chris Duerr, Logan Linder, Connor Mogan and Daniel Pietranton) in the 10-man rotation.

That means the old guys had to count on the young guys.

If you cannot trust your teammates, regardless the age, you don't win.

It's not that you can't win - you don't win.

It wasn't an easy transition, but it happened, and once all the players figured everything out, game on.

Madonna won its last 10 games to finish 25-9.

The Blue Dons were 15-9 after a 9-2 start.

I am guessing during that 6-7 stretch, not too many people envisioned a trip to the Power Park.

But, it happened.

And, everyone played a part in it.

You have read in this column over and over again it is about what we do for others, and not about ourselves.

That happened Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

West Liberty-Salem High School junior Meghan Vogel won the Division III 1600 in a personal-best time of 4:58.31, taking the race over with 300 meters to go to beat the favorite.

Her shining moment, though, came in the 3200.

Admittedly, I was not there. I was in the press room writing my story on Steubenville Catholic Central's Doug Maslowski and Monica Rigaud. It was a busy day and I had to get things done pronto.

I read a tweet from Times-Leader sports editor Seth Staskey:

"The state 1600 champion from WL Salem just helped an injured 3200 m runner to the finish line. Awesome sportsmanship."

A short time later, another one:

"I was honestly getting misty-eyed as I watched Megan Vogel of WL Salem help that runner across the finish line. It was SportsCenter esque."

After reading multiple accounts, here's what happened.

Vogel was dead last in the 3200. Not far in front of her was Arlington High School sophomore Arden McMath, who had the slowest qualifying time of the 15 competitors.

Heading down the home stretch, McMath fell and could not get up. She tried again, and still could not get up.

Instead of running by her, Vogel stopped, helped McMath up, put her arm around her and helped her to the finish line.

As the crowd at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium stood and the applause grew with each step by both athletes, Vogel allowed McMath to cross the line before her.

"Helping her cross the finish line was a lot more satisfying than winning the state championship," Vogel told Dave Long of the Springfield News-Sun.

"What a selfless act," Arlington head coach Paul Hunter told Long. "She could have just gone around Arden. But she chose to help. I've never seen that at a state meet. That's real sportsmanship."

Rules say a runner is disqualified for aiding another runner.

That did not happen in this instance - and for good reason.

"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him," Luke 33:10

A little bit of luck always has to go into all that hard work.

But, as Jack Nicklaus has said quite often, "the harder I worked, the luckier I got."

In their respective state track and field championships, Oak Glen's Ethan Delekta and Madonna's Taylor Pavan stood atop the podium in West Virginia in the discus, and River's Cassidy McCullough (300 hurdles) and St. Clairsville's Alyssa Robinson (shot put) did the same in Ohio.

Standing one step down on the podium was Buckeye Local's Jordan Piergallini in the 100 and Maslowski in the 110 hurdles.

As graduates, it was Delekta's and Piergallini's last chance at gold.

For Pavan, McCullough, Robinson and Maslowski, as well as thousands of others on both sides of the river, the hard work must only increase in order to repeat as state champs, or climb that one big step to the top or make it to the finals, or make it there at all.

In the 100 hurdles, where McCullough took fifth, one spot behind the sophomore Rigaud, six of the nine finalists return next year, the same in the 300 hurdles and the boys 110 hurdles.

In track, as well as other individual sports, what you put in, you get out.

Hard work does not guarantee success or a state championship, but it sure does make obtaining one a lot easier.

During an afternoon of covering track, you see tears of joy, tears of sadness, heartbreak, overwhelming joy, sportsmanship and, sometimes, kids who look like they really didn't want to be there.

Two high school educators were killed and eight athletes injured in a small Nebraska town Friday when a van carrying the eight collided with a pickup. The driver of the pickup, 70-year-old Albert Sherbeck, was also killed.

The Broken Bow High School basketball team was on its way back from a camp. Thirty-eight year old assistant coach Zane Harvey and 24-year-old head coach Anthony Blum were killed on impact.

Not only do all members of this tragedy need our prayers, it is another reminder that we are never guaranteed tomorrow.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com and can be followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike)

 
 

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