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Mirror awards to cap year in special way

Commentary

For as long as I have been at this newspaper, the day of the Altoona Mirror Athlete of the Year Banquet has always been a memorable one.

Whether it has involved donning a suit to help give out awards, rushing back from covering a playoff game to make the banquet or being the only one left in the office to lay out the paper and help create a keepsake for all the athletes, it’s a special day.

This year, like almost everything in the world, it won’t be the same due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t be special.

The banquet itself, which would have been the 15th annual gathering of the area’s top student-athletes, won’t be held at The Casino at Lakemont as it has been. But every day starting June 2, we’ll be running a feature story on each winner of the prestigious awards.

Each day, the presentations of the Frank Kiraly, Angie Gioiosa, Herb Faris, Erin Dodson, Ron Rickens Sportsmanship, Dean Rossi Leadership, Erin Johnson Inspiration and male and female Athletes of the Year will be revealed individually.

Today’s Athlete of the Week section kicks it off. It includes an action shot of each of our 58 Athletes of the Week during this abbreviated school year.

Honorees will still receive plaques they would have picked up at the banquet.

Throughout the years, the Mirror has done its best to make both the Athlete of the Week designation and the year-end banquet something coaches and players look forward to and strive for, and it was typically attended by more than 300 people.

It’s rare that a Saturday night in the sports department doesn’t involve a discussion on which area scholastic male and female had the best week. It’s something everyone takes very seriously, because we feel that it means a lot to those involved.

That notion has been proven year in and year out as players come to the banquet still dressed in their uniforms from playoff games held earlier that afternoon all across the area. Or when students bring their entire families not only from our core coverage in Blair County but from the regional schools we’ve touched in Cambria, Huntingdon, Bedford, Centre and Clearfield counties.

The awards, though individual in name, are tied to team success. One of the long-standing unwritten rules in selecting the Athlete of the Week is that the athlete helped their team win in addition to piling up impressive statistics.

Winning often comes from sacrifice, whether that’s assisting the biggest shot instead of shooting it or putting in hours no one else does in order to get better.

Every high school student, much less athlete, knows about sacrifice in 2020.

But we hope by going through with these special awards that we’re doing our part to provide some recognition and consolation to 2019-20.

Michael Boytim can be reached at mboytim@altoonamirror.com. Follow him on Twitter @BoytimMichael.

Awards start June 2

Following is a schedule of the recognition awards the Mirror will present:

Tuesday, June 2 — Frank Kiraly Award

Wednesday June 3 — Angie Gioiosa Award

Thursday, June 4 — Herb Faris Award

Friday, June 6 — Erin Dodson Award

Monday, June 8 — Female Ron Rickens Award

Tuesday, June 9 — Male Ron Rickens Award

Wednesday, June 10 — Dean Rossi Award

Thursday, June 11 — Erin Johnson Award

Friday, June 12 — Mirror Male Athlete of the Year

Saturday-Sunday, June 13-14 — Mirror Female Athlete of the Year

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