Mike Kovak

Column Mike Kovak

Mike Kovak is assistant night editor at the Observer-Reporter.

No easy choice for Athlete of the Year

Athlete of the Year certainly no easy choice

July 6, 2013

Multi-sport athletes have traditionally dominated the Observer-Reporter’s Boys and Girls Athlete of the Year award.

So much so that I thought about making it a prerequisite for this year’s installment.

Would’ve been a bad idea.

Why’s that, you ask?

Our two best athletes this year, the two that had the most profound impact and success within their respective sports, happen to be singularly focused: Canon-McMillan senior Cody Wiercioch in wrestling and Peters Township junior Veronica Latsko in girls soccer.

Some, including myself, laud athletes for playing more than one sport.

But why should we hold it against someone when they’re peerless within their sport – and stick to what they do best?

Just look at these credentials.

Wiercioch was a four-time state finalist and won his third PIAA wrestling championship this winter. The Pitt recruit finished his career with a record of 167-5, having never lost a bout at the PIAA Team Tournament. Over the past two years, Wiercioch did not give up a takedown in a varsity match.

Because of a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in her right knee, an injury suffered just a few months ago, Latsko’s high school career is likely over, but what the Virginia recruit did was downright incredible.

Two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania. Member of the Region I team for the Olympic Development Program. Scored 107 goals and added 31 assists. Led her team to two WPIAL Class AAA titles and three PIAA Class AAA championships.

But as successful as Wiercioch and Latsko were, this wasn’t a slam dunk, believe me.

Washington’s Alyssa Wise won a pair of PIAA Class AA titles – the 100- and 200-meter dashes – at Shippensburg and was in the final cut. So, too, was Fort Cherry’s Jenna Lucas, who won a state title in the javelin, medaled in the discus and averaged 15.6 points per game in basketball.

Those two will be back next year, and with Latsko’s scholastic career presumably over, this will be one heck of a race to watch. I also wouldn’t count out McGuffey’s Sammie Weiss (1,000-plus points in basketball) or Canon-Mac’s Olivia Lorusso (led softball team in homers, RBI and web gems).

Chartiers-Houston’s Kayla Briggs, a likely four-time All-State pick, would’ve been a fine selection considering she ended her career with a .512 batting average, 23 triples, 153 runs and 94 RBI, plus a ton of gaudy pitching stats.

On the boys side, Wiercioch did not lack for competition.

Just look at Shai McKenzie, who’s arguably the best football player in the WPIAL, has 30 NCAA Division I scholarship offers and spearheaded the resurgence of Washington football.

Josh Wise played three sports, was unstoppable in basketball and won a second consecutive WPIAL Class AA title in the high jump.

Want surprises?

How about Brian Fisher, a 1,000-point scorer in hoops and a 10-game winner in baseball this past spring. Or Garrett Vulcano, an outstanding linebacker and a West Liberty football recruit … but also a state runner-up in wrestling.

No question there were plenty of qualified applicants, though Wiercioch and Latsko stood out above the rest.

Ask anyone who has seen them, and there’s no doubt their names will last beyond this season; long after Wiercioch wrestles for Pitt and Latsko plays soccer at the University of Virginia, the legacies these two athletes left behind will live on.

Jason Mackey can be reached at jmackey@observer-reporter.com.



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