Some general observations while enjoying what is hopefully a permanent change in the weather, and wondering how many spring sporting events have been canceled for snow or rain this season
Last week was a reminder of the challenges of spring sports in the northeastern U.S. The Penn State softball team, for example, has a schedule of more than 30 games, but only six home series. In fact, there is only one weekend left to see the Nittany Lions at their beautiful home stadium, May 11 and 12 against Ohio State. Fortunately, the stadium is put to good use hosting the PIAA softball championships.
The Lady Lion basketball team held its season-ending awards ceremony over the weekend, paying a final tribute to lone senior, Zhaque Gray. She came to Penn State from Chicago, the very first recruit of then-new head coach Coquese Washington, becoming an integral part of the resurgence of the program. Zha Zha leaves Happy Valley with back-to-back trips to the NCAA's big dance, as well as the Big Ten's Sportsmanship Award, with big dreams of continuing to play at the next level.
Losing just one senior to graduation bodes well for the Penn State program as it looks forward to next season and the chance to defend its Big Ten Title with two returning first team all-conference guards in Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas.
The St. Francis men's golf team battled atrocious weather conditions as it wrapped up its final tournament of the regular season last week in Annapolis. Jeremy Foran was the top Red Flash finisher, tying for 13th after an even-par second round (and impressive 9 strokes better than his day-one score, in spite of the wintery conditions). The good news for the Flash is that the NEC Championships are in warm Daytona, Florida this coming weekend.
It was a pleasure to see many of the Tyrone football players from the 1999 state championship team at the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame banquet this past weekend. Amazingly, the former ball boys, Johnny Franco and Andy Lytle were among the tallest of the lot, college seniors 13 years after watching their former heroes bring home the gold ball trophy.
Now, many of those championship players have little future football stars of their own, and were anxious to share baby photos as well as fond memories with their former teammates. The mark that Coach John Franco, his staff, and more than a decade of Golden Eagles have left on their school and community is remarkable. Here's hoping that both the Tyrone and Altoona football teams enjoy success as they begin their next chapters.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. inches closer and closer to ending his years-long winning drought, this past weekend finishing second at Richmond. A trip to victory lane can't be far away, as Junior stands second in points, with the largest cheering section in the country ready to rejoice when he finally takes the checkered flag.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.