The Crowne Plaza Pittsburgh South was the place to be May 21 as the stars came out and were recognized for the 27th time by the Almanac. Fifty athletes were awarded for their excellence and the Premier Performers Sports Banquet attracted a crowd of 215.
Mt. Lebanon dominated the scene as Kate Sramac and David Harvey captured top honors. The seniors were named athletes of the year. In addition, Elizabeth Farnan became the 16th winner of the prestigious Waldie/Shaeffer Scholarship Award.
Sramac claimed Female Athlete of the Year, edging out a field that included national All-American, Aideen O'Donoghue of Canon-McMillan, as well as her state champion soccer-playing teammates Sabrina Bryan and Cheyenne Trest. The competition also included PIAA golf champion Mia Kness from Peters Township and PIAA swim champion and WPIAL record holder Trinity Ward of Mt. Lebanon. Bethel Park senior Kayte Zeiler and underclassmen Brionna Allen from Bishop Canevin and Seton-La Salle's Elizabeth Grefenstette completed the Top 10 list of female finalists.
A three-sport athlete, Sramac has her lacrosse team poised to defend its WPIAL title. The Blue Devils reached the semifinals with a 12-9 win against Bethel Park. The finals are set for 8 p.m. May 25 at Robert Morris University. Sramac also excelled in basketball and was selected to the U18 USA ice hockey development team. She maintained a 4.1 GPA in the classroom, belonged to Link Leaders and volunteered at Children's Hospital. She gained high praise from her hoop coach as "the All-American girl."
"I would be overjoyed if my own daughters grow up to possess her positive qualities," said Dori Oldaker. "Kate has that 'Wow' factor and she will make a difference in the this world.
That world expands to New York next fall. Kate will play basketball at Cornell and major in communications.
Harvey, too, had the Blue Devils in position to win a WPIAL lacrosse title. They played rival Upper St. Clair May 23 at Mars in the semifinals. The finals are set for May 26 at Robert Morris University. As a sophomore, he played on Lebo's last LAX championship club. The Blue Devils were runners-up last season. While, he also played basketball, Harvey made his mark on the gridiron. He led Lebo to a conference championship by rushing for 1,408 yards in the highest classification. He also scored 20 touchdowns. Academically, he pulled down a 5.0 GPA and earned admittance into Lebo's prestigious Cum Laude Society. He also was a National Honor Society member and Link Leader.
According to Mike Melynk, Harvey is worth emulating by all.
"David is an outstanding athlete but a better person," said the Lebo football coach. He leads by his actions and always makes the right choices. He is a fine example for everyone, not just those in our program."
In the fall, Harvey will set the standard at Princeton University. He is undecided regarding his major but hopes to return to Mt. Lebanon to earn a living and raise a family, he said.
The other top male finalists included: the Upper St. Clair duo of Eli Grape and Gabe Houy, a Pitt football recruit; the Keystone Oaks record-setting passing tandem of Alex Smith and Nick Hrivnak; Canon-McMillan's pair of Brendan Furman, a state wrestling champion bound for Cornell, and Bryan Milligan; Pitt recruit Nino Bonaccorsi from Bethel Park; Chartiers-Houston record-point setter A.J. Myers and Chartiers Valley's WPIAL champion soccer goalie Caleb Zajicek.
Meanwhile, Farnan exceeded criteria for the scholarship, given to the top athlete committed to serving the country. The Seton-La Salle senior and McMurray resident earned an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.
Farnan played defense on the Rebels' playoff lacrosse team, qualified for the PIAA cross country championships and lettered in swimming. She owned a 5.09 GPA and won several academic awards, including the distinction as a National Merit Commended Scholar. She is a class senator, NHS and English National Honor Society member and an assistant drum major in the marching band.
According to Brian Klisavage, "Liz sees the possibilities in life. She will achieve great things and make this world a better place."
In addition to Farnan, Daniel McGeough, Nathaniel Taylor and Olivia Yocca were Waldie/Shaeffer Award finalists.
The Friends of Waldie along with Mary Louise Klimm presented the Waldie/Shaeffer Award, which included a $1,500 cash donation towards the scholarship from the foundation.
Klimm, a resident of Massachusetts, is the sister of Ken Waldie, who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She familiarized the athletes and audience with Mr. Waldie's selfless life of devotion to his faith, family and country. She said that she was encouraged by the drive and determination she has seen among all the present and past Waldie/Shaeffer candidates, who have dedicated themselves to a life of service to their nation just as her brother had before he died at the age of 46.
Friends of Waldie in attendance included Bethel Park alumni and classmates Terry Crump, Frank DelPercio, Tom Etzel and Steve McGinnis. They donated $1,500 to The Almanac's Waldie/Shaeffer Award. The Friends of Waldie organization has contributed no less than $1,000 each year to the scholarship since it was established by The Almanac in 2002.
The Almanac also acknowledged the achievements of 24 more athletes. Those MVPs included: Savannah Shaw, Aaron Pfeil, Morgan Happe, Connor Bruce, Liam Gibbons, Kevin Kwok, Samara Schratz, Hutner Bruce, Kylie Aieresman, Mike Kapusta, Sean Tinney, Justina Mascaro, Walter Bonds, Alexandra Rovers, Stephen Hopta, Jack Fitzpatrick, Abby Hay, Trevor Mahoney, Jason Bauer, Ethan Smith, Marcus Huetter, Chyna Beck, Harvey Kane, Isabel Schiedenhelm, Kaci Alderson and Cameron Weston.
Pastor Joe DiDonato served as emcee. Jacob Dixon of Bethel Park returned to the dais as a special guest. In addition to presenting plaques to the Top 10 finalist and announcing the winners, the 2016 Male Athlete of the Year spoke words of encouragement to the athletes.
"Nothing is etched in stone," said Dixon, who started out playing volleyball at Lewis University but transferred to Duquesne to resume his football career. "You have to stay true to yourself and your beliefs." He added, "don't forget where you came from and always count on your support system. They are there for you." And he reminded the athletes to continue to "work hard" and always "be nice to people."
Eleanor Bailey, The Almanac